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'The people need the power’: At North Baltimore protest, youth organizers call for racial justice and defunding police

Demonstrations against police brutality and racial injustice have taken over many streets across America’s major cities — and that was no different Tuesday night as youth organizers in North Baltimore shouted chants that rang through the neighborhood.

The protest, organized by members of Good Kids Mad City, drew about 60 people. It came on the heels of no officers being charged last week in the death of Breonna Taylor during a botched raid on her apartment in March in Louisville Kentucky.

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“Say no, no to the po', po,” demonstrators said Tuesday night. A similar chant has been heard throughout Baltimore during this year at other demonstrations.

Going through Waverly Village and passing by shopping centers, the demonstration was joined by community members.

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The protesters, with a “Defund BPD” banner in front, then went along East 33rd Street.

After several more chants and support from bypassing honking cars, the crowd of demonstrators stopped at the Johns Hopkins University.

Shayla Williams, a 20-year-old co-organizer with Good Kids Mad City, said this demonstration is a part of the group’s three-part series for activist work in the city. The group is composed of young people in Baltimore City— the youngest being 16 and the oldest 21, Williams said.

“This is the first step to our long-lasting movement and that is because we are a movement and not a moment,” Williams said.

The group is advocating that funds to the Baltimore Police Department be “divested” and funneled into predominantly Black city neighborhoods.

Calls to defund local law enforcement have also been heard nationwide in Atlanta, Minneapolis, Louisville, New York and several other cities that have seen large protests against police misconduct.

Defunding law enforcement could be complicated in Baltimore.

Activist groups like Organizing Black want 50% of the police department budget divested into community programs and the abolishment of the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights, a state law that guides police disciplinary rules and procedures.

In July, U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar doubled down on his support for the city to continue with its yearslong reform efforts, which require increased funding and hiring more police officers due to a 2017 consent decree — leaving the city with a legal obligation to complete the listed changes.

Still, Williams and other demonstrators Tuesday night said they feel a need to push harder and return power back to nearby communities that have long suffered from blight and failed infrastructures.

“We need to start depending on the people. The power needs to shift, the people need the power in order to make things better for us. We know what we need and it is going to take us to do it,” Williams added.

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