Demonstrators and police in downtown Baltimore to protest George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis by a then-police officer.
Hundreds of demonstrators, chanting and holding signs, drove and marched through Baltimore streets from Saturday afternoon into the early hours of Sunday to call attention to the killing of a Minnesota man at the hands of police, as city leaders urged the protesters to remain peaceful while acknowledging their frustration and pain.
What started as peaceful protests evolved into numerous tense moments as the hours passed, with items thrown at police, a bank set ablaze and some store fronts and a city van broken into.
For the most part, police were cautious in interactions with protesters, though they held a firm line at City Hall. There, just before midnight, someone from the crowd flung a shopping cart across the barricade toward officers. Protesters initially scattered, seemingly fearing police response, but the officers remained in place. Shortly after, though, they came through the barricade, appearing to chase a woman in the crowd.
Police Commissioner Michael Harrison on Sunday said his officers arrested 12 adults and two juveniles on charges such as burglary, aggravated assault and attempted arson.
Harrison said the department is investigating eight instances of property destructions and burglary at 11 locations. He said he ordered the department’s leadership team to look into allegations of assault and burglary regarding a Fox 45 news team.
“Attacking members of the press is absolutely unacceptable,” he said.
Anger and frustration over the death of George Floyd, who died after being pinned by the neck to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer, bubbled over in city after city around the country. Protests turned violent with demonstrators confronting police in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and elsewhere.
In Baltimore, protesters threw water bottles and vandalized a city van around 9:30 p.m., even as others urged them to stop. Crowd members chanted “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” and police in riot gear with shields moved the protesters back. Three hours later, both sides remained there.
As officers continued to patrol the streets, with their police dogs, on foot and in Humvees, they blared a message urging crowds to disperse. But people continued to march throughout downtown.
Among vandalized sites were at least two convenience stores on East Baltimore Street. Shattered glass was scattered on the ground from the revolving door entryway of The Gallery at 111 S. Calvert St.
After midnight, one group surrounded First National Bank at 300 E. Lombard St. Many were throwing rocks and breaking the glass, enabling protesters to go in and out of the building. An expletive, “f--- the police,” was written across the glass.
"Burn that b--- up!” somebody shouted.
Minutes later, an object was thrown into the building and a small fire erupted. Officers, including SWAT, responded to the scene and the fire was put out within several minutes.
Gov. Larry Hogan authorized Maryland State Police, Maryland Transportation Authority Police and Maryland Transit Administration police to assist the Baltimore Police Department, according to his spokesman, Mike Ricci.
The Baltimore Police Department tweeted late Saturday that the Maryland State Police was sending members downtown, and they would be arriving by Humvee. The Maryland National Guard was on standby, according to a spokesman. Baltimore police later said Maryland State Police were on the scene and assisting.
Hogan had regular calls with his security team and constantly communicated with Baltimore officials, Ricci said late Saturday.
“The governor is encouraged the fact that these have been mostly peaceful demonstrations, and by the job BPD is doing to keep people safe,” Ricci said in a statement.
Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young on Saturday warned demonstrators during an afternoon news conference to act lawfully, saying, “I have zero tolerance for anything that approaches chaos and lawbreaking,” while acknowledging that “there’s an incredible amount of pain running through our city and our country right now” and that he felt it, too.
On Sunday, Young said Baltimore was “a national example of what it looks like to engage in passionate protesting without widespread breaking of the law.” He thanked police officers for their restraint, Gov. Larry Hogan for offering assistance and those who “acted as peacemakers” at the protest.
Prosecutors in Minnesota on Friday announced charges against the officer who was seen on video pinning Floyd to the ground with a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Yet as unrest in Minneapolis and St. Paul grew increasingly destructive, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz fully mobilized the state’s National Guard and promised a massive show of force. In Wilmington, Delaware, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, protesters made their way onto nearby interstates and shut them down temporarily. In Los Angeles, police used batons to move protesters back and shot rubber bullets to scatter the crowd. An overturned police car burned outside Philadelphia’s City Hall.
With their “Black Lives Matter” signs and “No justice, no peace” chants, the Baltimore protesters’ actions recalled other painful periods in the city’s and nation’s history. Baltimore was confronted in 2015 with protests — as well as arson and looting — after the death of Freddie Gray in city police custody.
Saturday afternoon’s demonstration in Baltimore was peaceful. The first demonstrators, most wearing masks, arrived by foot or in cars about 3 p.m. at a parking lot on North Charles Street that was a meeting point for the rally. Music played from a car speaker. The early crowd was a mix of black and white, women and men. Many demonstrators carried signs or decorated their cars with stickers.
Later, a chanting, fist-pumping crowd marched to City Hall, to police headquarters, to Harbor East and Fells Point. The Rev. Westley West, a Baltimore pastor, appeared to be leading the group.
In addition to Floyd, the events also recognized Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police in March in Louisville, Kentucky, and Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed in February while jogging in Georgia. Participants carried signs, some reading “Justice 4 George” and “Say Their Names.”
The crowd swelled to hundreds. Some cars driving by honked their horns. The rally included a caravan of cars as well as walkers. Traffic crawled along on North Charles Street as people drove slowly with blinkers on, making the procession look like a funeral.
“It wasn’t a tough decision,” Michelle Bramucci, 39, a Baltimore County insurance adjuster, said of her participation.
She had watched the video of Floyd, calling it “tragic.”
“The reason you’re seeing that is not because it’s a new thing. It’s because it’s being filmed,” she said.
By 4 p.m., the parade of cars had started rolling through the intersection of North and Pennsylvania avenues. Several people stood on nearby sidewalks with signs bearing messages such as “Why is this still happening?”
Demba Gologo sat atop a yellow pickup truck on North Avenue, beating rhythms on an empty water jug with a mallet to encourage the protesters driving by.
“We just want a peaceful protest and everybody is doing a beautiful job,” he said. “No violence.”
Gologo’s nearby shop, which sells “a little bit of everything,” was looted in rioting in 2015 after the death of Gray, who was mortally wounded while in police custody after being arrested on a minor charge.
“We have learned the hard way,” Gologo said between beats. “From Freddie Gray, we learned so much. So much damage affected the city. Now they want to do it peaceful so that people can hear the message.”
As the demonstration continued, City Council President Brandon Scott appeared at a City Hall news conference Saturday afternoon and said: “We’re all frustrated.”
He encouraged people to “demand change,” but to do so in a peaceful manner similar to peaceful protests Friday night.
“Being black in America is exhausting,” said Scott, who is running to be the Democratic nominee for mayor in Tuesday’s primary. “We shouldn’t have people dying at the hands of the police. ... It’s up to us to change all of it, together.”
Harrison said officers were helping and allowing people to peacefully protest. He said the department was “in a constant state of planning” and “adjusting” in response to changes in protest activity.
Later Saturday, marchers streamed into the plaza at City Hall, shouting chants such as: “No justice, no peace! No racist police!” Police officers stood in front of City Hall, wearing masks and with their hands clasped in front.
Demonstrators then moved on to police headquarters, where they urged a police lieutenant to read a list of names of police brutality victims.
The lieutenant lowered his face mask and read through all of them individually, as the crowd chanted “Next name" each time. The crowd moved on.
Demonstrators then marched through posh Harbor East, stopping in front of the Four Seasons hotel and shouting “Power to the people!”
After protesters returned to City Hall, the scene grew more fraught, as some threw projectiles at police and several storefronts were broken into. But the response remained reserved.
“We got kids out here,” Scott said from the scene Saturday night. “No grown person should put a kid at risk because they’re throwing a bottle.”
The Baltimore Consent Decree Monitoring team tweeted just after midnight that its members were “closely monitoring” the police department’s response to the protests. The city has been under a consent decree since 2017 following a Justice Department investigation that found widespread unconstitutional and discriminatory policing in the city.
Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones announced the formation of a bipartisan work group of lawmakers who will review police reform and accountability.
“Policing in America is broken,” Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, said in a statement Saturday. “While we have taken a number of positive steps in Maryland, we can’t be satisfied until every citizen has confidence in their police department.”
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The work group will be chaired by Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, a Howard County Democrat. In the announcement, Jones and Atterbeary, both of whom are black, noted that they are mothers of sons.
“The events around the country this week have underscored that we cannot wait another day,” Atterbeary said. “We need structural reform ideas from the community and law enforcement to fix this problem in a collaborative way.”
Early Sunday, civil rights activist and onetime Baltimore mayoral candidate DeRay Mckesson appeared in an interview with MSNBC, saying members of Congress called him for help in problem solving.
“People are interested in solutions. The question will be: Are they courageous enough to implement them?” he said in the interview. “People aren’t going to leave the streets soon, so I hope we have people willing to meet the movement.”
Baltimore Sun reporters Liz Bowie, Luke Broadwater, Phillip Jackson, Wilborn P. Nobles III, McKenna Oxenden, Kevin Richardson, Talia Richman and Christina Tkacik, Capital Gazette reporter Brooks DuBose and The Associated Press contributed to this article.