Hundreds of marchers stood outside Douglass Homes on Saturday afternoon to protest police brutality and, in the shadow of Johns Hopkins Hospital, decried the Baltimore institution and what they called its legacy of racism.
The gathering marked the start of another day of protest in Baltimore and the country in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis.
At Hopkins, speakers recalled the famous case of Henrietta Lacks, a black woman whose cancer cell tissue was collected without her knowledge. They called Hopkins a “force of gentrification” in this majority black city. And they said Hopkins’ plan to suspend the creation of a private police force does not go far enough, demanding it be canceled.
Hundreds of people carried signs that urged Baltimore to defund its police force while proclaiming that Black Lives Matter.
The Rev. Annie Chambers said that God gave Floyd’s mother — who he cried out for before his death under the knee of a white police officer — a son who started a revolution. Now, people must continue to fight for justice.
“I’ve been fighting for 60 years for some peace, for some justice, for some human rights,” Chambers said. She led the crowd in chants of “Justice!” from the front of the caravan.
Dressed in full personal protective equipment amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, healthcare workers from Hopkins came outside to wave to the protesters, who marched by.
“George Floyd," they chanted. "Say his name.”
“Freddie Gray," they echoed. "Say his name.”
As the caravan made its way down Jefferson Street, Nellie McDaniel told her grandchildren to come outside and watch as the protests unfolding across the world made it to their neighborhood.
Serenity, who just celebrated her 7th birthday, held up her tablet and hit “record” as hundreds of people marched past her rowhome, waving signs that read, “Black Lives Matter.”
“Racism has not stopped,” McDaniel, 67, told her granddaughter. “That’s why we’re doing this.”
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“I want to do it!” shouted Serenity, throwing her hands in the hair, braids swinging. She said she wants to march for her friends and for her family.
She told her grandma that it looked like a lot of white people out there. “We’ve got other people helping us this time,” McDaniel responded.
The protest wrapped up at City Hall, where a day's worth of traffic had already left a grey sheen on top of the pink "DEFUND THE POLICE" mural painted the previous day.
Andre Powell from the Peoples Power Assembly closed out the march, calling for the abolition of the police department and urging protesters to get home safely. Powell’s organization, known for its protests against alleged police brutality, has operated since 2012 — though many members have been activists in Baltimore for decades — and has become a regular sponsor of protests in Baltimore since Floyd’s killing. “The turnout is fabulous,” he said afterward. “It exceeded what we expected.”
Several protesters held signs that said “Black Trans Lives Matter,” a commentary on the high number of black trans women killed each year. “There are many, many murders of black trans women that the police don’t really give a damn about,” Powell said. Two black trans women were killed this week: Riah Milton in Ohio and Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells in Philadelphia.
This month also marks Pride month for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community. Powell observed that the first Pride parade marked the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall rebellion, which followed a routine police raid on a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village. “I feel like its sort of like the predecessor to the Black Lives Matter movement.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Nathan Ruiz contributed to this report.