Baltimore City

Baltimore women mark International Women's Day with protest

Patrice Meekins, 41, left, and Jackie Edwards, 54, right, volunteers or "hug dealers" with "Hugs Don't Shoot," hold signs in front of the State Center. They were part of a demonstration held Thursday in honor of International Women's Day, organized by Baltimore Women United.

As women across the world and around the country demonstrated to mark International Women’s Day, in Baltimore, a handful of women — and at least one man — gathered near the city’s State Center to protest.

The group, organized by Baltimore Women United, held signs and shook soda cans turned into noisemakers at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Howard Street on Thursday evening during rush hour.


“We are all united, no matter our race, our age, our religious beliefs,” said Khalilah Harris, 40, who stood in the cold as cars and buses passed by, many honking their support.

The protesters represented a broad swath of interests, including calls for economic, political and racial equality.


Sharon Alkalay, 38, carried a poster advocating for women’s economic rights.

“Basically everyone I know is struggling and living paycheck-to-paycheck,” said the Baltimore County speech therapist. She wants that to end.

“Can I have a hug?” Val Jenkins asked another protester.

Jenkins and other “hug dealers” with a group called Hugs Don’t Shoot were there for peace.

“Our mission is to bring a sense of peace to every community — one hug at a time,” she said.

Holding a sign that said, “Honk for Baltimore Womyn,” John E. Kyle, 72, said he came for development reasons. He and many people in the surrounding area wanted to see the State Center area redeveloped — though Gov. Larry Hogan scrapped a deal with one developer.

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“It’s a crumbling, 65-year-old set of buildings that need work,” he said of the building that stood in the background.

Baltimore Women United, an activist coalition formed in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election, meets on the 8th of every month. This month’s meeting happened to coincide with International Women’s Day.


“It didn’t feel appropriate to sit inside meeting,” given the occasion, said Denise Gilmore, 31, one of the event’s organizers.

The group has a stated mission of helping increase the number of women in elected office. In attendance was Elizabeth Embry, who is running for lieutenant governor as the running mate of Democratic candidate Rushern Baker, the Prince Georges County executive.

“It’s an amazing group of women,” Embry said.

For demonstrator Sarah Sherman, 42, activism like the women’s day protest has “sustained me throughout the Trump regime,” she said. She wore a pink “pussy hat” — made famous at the Women’s March on Washington a year ago, which Sherman also attended.

“The political climate is so nasty right now that it’s great to get out into the cold with the warmth of women and advocate for ourselves and our city,” Sherman said.