Hundreds march in Baltimore as protest organizers look to next steps

As demonstrations for Brown and Garner grow, organizers look to next steps.

The scene has grown familiar, in Baltimore and cities across the Nation: Hundreds of people marching through the streets, blocking traffic, chanting "Hands up, don't shoot!" and "No justice, no peace!"

As worshippers from the Empowerment Temple led another march to protest the recent deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, their pastor spoke Sunday about harnessing their energy to bring about meaningful change in relations between police and the communities in which they work.

"There has got to be a revisitation of how young people carry themselves with police," the Rev. Jamal-Harrison Bryant said.

But at the same time, Bryant said, the Department of Justice must conduct independent inquiries into the cases of Brown, in Ferguson, Mo., and Garner, in New York, after grand juries declined to indict the officers involved.

Boards of citizens should be established to review police actions, he said, and the feasibility of body cameras to record police interactions with the public should be studied.

"The beauty of the civil rights movement is they knew what they were marching for," Bryant said. "They said, 'We're going to march until we can ride in the front of the bus, until the segregated signs come down.'

"I think that there's got to be an objective for 'Hands up, don't shoot!'"

The Empowerment Temple and churches across the country marked what they called National Black Solidarity Sunday with marches, protests and demonstrations.

Organizers asked participants to wear black, in solidarity with African Americans who have been killed by police; to refrain from purchasing a Christmas tree this year, in recognition of those who have lost loved ones; to donate to a historically black college or university and to make their holiday purchases at black-owned businesses.

They also asked participants to refrain from buying tobacco products between Dec. 22 and 26. Brown was confronted by Officer Darren Wilson after he took a box of cigarillos from a convenience store and shoved a clerk. Garner was approached by police in New York for allegedly selling loose cigarettes.

National Black Solidarity Sunday came a day after tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Baltimore, New York, Washington, Boston and other cities to protest police killings. The number and in many cases the size of such demonstrations have grown in the months since Brown, 18, was shot to death by Wilson in Ferguson in August.

In Baltimore, several hundred worshippers left the Empowerment Temple to march first down and then up Reisterstown Road. The men held their hands up; all chanted "Hands up, don't shoot!" "No justice, no peace!" and, finally, "I can't breathe!" — Garner's last words as police wrestled him to the ground.

Some held signs that read "Black Lives Matter" and "This Ends Now."

"We don't want this to happen again," said Lolita Rennick, a registered nurse from Baltimore. She marched with her daughter Paris, 10, and her son Israel, 7.

"I have black children," she said. "I don't want it to happen to black children. I don't want it to happen to any children. I want something to be done."

Bystanders along the commercial corridor took smartphone videos; motorists honked their support. Three workers from the Long John Silver's restaurant stepped out to raise their hands.

The procession stopped at the intersection of Reisterstown Road and Clark's Lane. Several dozen of the demonstrators lay down in the middle of the intersection, stopping traffic.

All observed 41/2 minutes of silence, in commemoration of the 41/2 hours that police in Ferguson left the body of Brown on the street. Baltimore police helped redirect traffic away from the demonstrators; a police helicopter circled overhead.

The demonstrators marched back to the Empowerment Temple, continuing the chants and singing "We Shall Overcome." After a prayer, they dispersed peacefully.

Tim Burroughs, an engineer from Baltimore, sees a movement forming.

"It's across generational lines," he said. "This is something that cannot be ignored by anyone, any color, any race or any age. Change is not coming as fast as we need to see."

Joseph Greene, a 15-year-old sophomore at Randallstown High School, kept a hand on his 5-year-old nephew Dylan.

"Any one of those people that got killed, it could have been me," he said. "I want to stand up and make sure it doesn't happen any more."

matthew.brown@baltsun.com

twitter.com/matthewhaybrown

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