The sixth day of demonstrations began in a uniquely low key Baltimore way with a longtime activist and barbecue cook Duane “Shorty” Davis cooking for a small crowd in War Memorial Plaza.
Davis called it an “Art and Activism” event, an avenue for members of the community to eat, showcase art and talk about racism in America.
“Today we’re going to practice civility. We’re going to practice education. We’re going to practice entertainment. And we’re going to practice fellowship,” said Davis, taking a break from grilling meat.
As his event ended, several hundred protesters began assembling around him near City Hall for a separate demonstration and another group began marching miles away on Reisterstown Road in Baltimore County near Franklin High School. Two other protests, one in Harford County in the afternoon and a second on Reisterstown Road near Northern Parkway later in the evening showed that the movement started after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis last week showed no signs of being over.
Thousands of people of all ages and races have taken to the streets across the country, saying they would continue until leaders addressed both structural racism and police violence.
At the later event outside City Hall, organized by a number of groups focused on city youth, speakers, including Wesley Hawkins, an activist who runs a mentoring program, stressed the need to hold elected officials accountable.
Hawkins said he invited multiple officials, including Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, but they had not arrived by nightfall.
At the intersection of Baltimore Street and Gay Street, the group had a standoff with police officers between a barricade. They implored the officers to ask Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison to come out and join them. They said they hoped for a meeting on Thursday.
About 17 miles away, a group of about 25 people stood outside Franklin High School and, despite the warm temperatures, marched down Reisterstown Road to advocate for justice. Car horns honked as the group, composed mostly of young people, shouted “Justice for George Floyd” and waved signs.
Kai Smith said he found out about the student-led protest on Instagram. The rising sophomore at Temple University said he’s “sick and tired” of racial inequalities and police targeting black people.
“This has been going on for too long,” the 18-year-old said. “We want justice.”
In Baltimore County, Police Chief Melissa Hyatt mingled with youth holding the protest near Franklin High School telling them she wanted to make sure they were safe because they had not notified police about the protest.
Farther south on Reisterstown Road at Northern Parkway, more than 20 people calling themselves “hug dealers” said they represented a group that wanted to spread a message of love. They wore orange, yellow and green shirts, waved and shouted “hug don’t shoot” and “virtual hug, spread the love.”
Corey “Spoon” Witherspoon said spreading the message about love and hugs is even more important in wake of George Floyd’s death.
“We’re just trying to show that even though it’s virtual right now, through it all we can all still spare love,” he said.
Since protests began in Baltimore, Val Jenkins has been out almost every day, not only to promote virtual hugs but also because she’s tired of black people being killed.
“We’re all going to die some day,” she said. “So how about we die from a fire or a heart attack instead of murder."
At a press conference earlier Wednesday afternoon, Hogan again praised the city for its largely peaceful protests.
“We’re one of the only cities in America that didn’t have lots of violence," said Hogan, adding that having protesters working with police to quell violence showed “quite a bit of trust.”
Hogan said the U.S. Secretary of Defense had called him directly to speak about using the military in response to protests in Maryland. Hogan said 1,300 National Guard members had been mobilized during the COVID-19 crisis and said the federal government asked if they could fill in for the park service police in Washington, D.C.
“They are now patrolling our nation’s monuments,” Hogan said. “They were there last night."
At the Harford County Courthouse in Bel Air, about 200 people gathered at 1 p.m. Wednesday for a peaceful demonstration. Speakers called for changes in the fractured relationship between police and the African-American community across the nation as the crowd chanted.
Across the street, sheriff’s office employees watched from their headquarters building. Protesters later crossed the street and stopped at the Sheriff’s Office entrance, just before a line of yellow tape. A few people shouted and cursed while the majority of the protesters called for police officials to “take a knee” in solidarity with them.
Havre de Grace Police Chief Teresa Walter talked to one demonstrator but did not respond to the protesters’ demands and walked back inside as the crowed booed.
Baltimore Sun Media reporter David Anderson contributed to this article.