As Black Lives Matter demonstrations after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis are continuing across cities and suburbs, young protesters took their signs to Towson on Thursday.
Roughly 30 people, mostly college and high school students, stood in the center of the Towson roundabout that connects Joppa, York, Dulaney Valley roads and Allegheny Avenue at noon to call for police reform — a modest crowd, but one that elicited responses from passersby, with drivers honking loudly (including a Baltimore County fire engine), raising their fists outside their windows and shouting “No justice, no peace.”
One woman driving a silver coupe stopped her car in the roundabout, yelled “black lives matter,” and asked the demonstrators if they needed any water.
“I want to come out and represent my community. I don’t want to seem silent from being home,” said 16-year-old Kayla Norris, who, with her friends Madison Hayes and Zuri Hurley, have been joining protests in Baltimore City.
“You can do so much over the phone and over the internet, but being in person can honestly have a much bigger impact also,” Norris said.
Hayes, holding a sign filled with the names and ages of black men and women who have died in police custody, agreed.
“I’d rather die from corona than die from the police,” she said.
Across the U.S. and Baltimore region, protests have been ignited by Floyd’s death in the custody of Minneapolis police, caught on video as policeman Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
Chauvin was subsequently fired and then arrested May 29. The 19-year Minneapolis police veteran has been charged as have three officers who stood by. Protests have led to clashes between demonstrators and police in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and other cities, but have remained peaceful in the Baltimore area.
“The micro-aggressions and the problems that I face as a young, black, educated woman, I need peace. I need freedom,” said Lauren, a Baltimore resident and sophomore at Spelman College in Atlanta who asked that her last name not be published.
“I’ve been entangled into this unjust system and I believe we just need change. It needs to stop.”
Kevin Foehrkolb, holding a large sign that said “White silence is violence,” said he has joined protests in Baltimore City since Monday night, and learned about the Towson protest on Twitter.
Foehrkolb, who is white, said that although he’s had run-ins with the police — “and rightfully so,” he added — “no one ever drove up on me or slammed me to the ground … chased me down, pulled a gun, nothing.”
On Thursday, Sen. William C. Smith Jr., chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, outlined a proposal for police reform that included provisions that would make complaints against police subject to public records laws; enable non-law enforcement officials to participate in reviews over complaints against police; create a division in the Office of the Attorney General to prosecute cases in which an officer injures or kills a civilian, and in misconduct cases; and would require other officers to intervene when they witness cases of excessive force.
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr., who has on Twitter voiced his support for peaceful demonstrators, stopped by the rally mid-afternoon.
The protest follows a Sunday demonstration in Towson. Other protests are scheduled in the Towson area, including a march from the Historic Courthouse on Washington Avenue to Baltimore County Detention Center on Thursday evening at 6 p.m., and a student-led rally at the Historic Courthouse on Tuesday, June 9 at 4 p.m.