Hundreds of demonstrators against recent police killings of unarmed black men around the country marched peacefully through downtown Baltimore as part of a national day of protest. (Arthur Hirsch/Baltimore Sun video)
Hundreds of people demonstrating against recent police killings of unarmed black men around the country marched peacefully through downtown Baltimore Saturday afternoon as part of a national day of protest, shouting slogans, hoisting signs and at one point blocking Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in both directions.
Hundreds of people demonstrating against recent police killings of unarmed black men around the country marched peacefully through downtown Baltimore on Saturday afternoon as part of a national day of protest, chanting slogans, hoisting signs and at one point blocking Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in both directions.
The protests, which continued into the evening, were met by a large numbers of police and a carefully coordinated law enforcement effort to keep the demonstrators away from M&T Bank Stadium, where the Army-Navy game was taking place.
About 20 police marched alongside the demonstrators as they headed west on Lombard Street from the Inner Harbor where the rally began, but dozens of police converged as the marchers turned south on Greene Street toward M&T Bank Stadium. A line of police officers and a police van blocked the southbound side of Greene Street outside Oriole Park at Camden Yards. About a dozen Maryland state troopers also formed a line along Greene Street.
The marchers then moved west to the intersection of Martin Luther King and Washington Boulevard, where they stopped. Some sat listening to speakers on a portable public address system, some stretched out on the pavement on their backs — a "die-in" gesture that has been carried out around the country in the last few months of protest. Hundreds of demonstrators ringed the intersection and held the ground for about 30 minutes.
Dozens of police stood back from the crowd of black and white demonstrators. By the time the game was over late Saturday afternoon, protesters had marched — under the direction of police — far to the north along Calvert Street. Despite moments of tension when police declared the protest an "illegal assembly" and threats from police that protesters had to clear intersections or be arrested, no arrests were reported by the end of the afternoon.
The demonstration was part of a national "Day of Anger," with marches planned in cities across the country. Thousands took part in marches from Boston, New York and Washington to Portland, Ore.
"The main goal of this is to get people united," said Sara Benjamin, 23, an organizer with the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, as she headed north on Martin Luther King after marchers left the intersection. "We just want these cops to be accountable."
John Mellow, 34, of Baltimore, said he hoped the demonstration would bring attention to issues beyond the recent police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio.
"There's a bigger problem than those incidents," said Mellow, who is white. "This is for me part of a broader movement to end over-policing, mass incarceration, racist police. … I'm raising my son, I'm fortunate he has my complexion. But I feel for those who do not."
Natasha Richburg of Baltimore County said she had not taken part in protest demonstrations since she was a student at Frostburg State University in the 1980s, but this time, she was moved to take part.
"I'm just sick of black men getting hurt," said Richburg. "I don't dislike the police, I just don't like seeing black men get hurt."
She said Baltimore police seemed to be handling the situation well by standing back and not trying to move protesters by physical force.
"If more acted like that, we wouldn't be here," she said.
She was standing at the intersection of Martin Luther King and Washington Boulevard next to Julius Ferguson, a 28-year-old rap artist who was wearing a black kerchief over his nose and mouth printed with the word "Rebel" in white.
As far back as when he was in high school, he said, he'd been harassed and physically assaulted by police for no reason when he lived in New Haven, Conn. Because of the prevalence of cellphone cameras, social media and video viewing sites online, more people are becoming aware of what black people have been dealing with for a long time, he said.
"I think people are realizing this is ridiculous," he said. "The system is supposed to be set up for justice."
Baltimore Sun reporter Ian Duncan contributed to this article.