The Rev. Westley West, who led many of the protest marches following the death of Freddie Gray in April, launched his City Council campaign in Penn North Sunday.
West, who has served as pastor of Faith Empowered Ministries for two years, filed in September to seek the Green Party's nomination for the seventh district seat currently occupied by Councilman Nick J. Mosby, who is running for mayor.
He has since changed his party affiliation to Democrat, he said, "to give myself the best advantage to serve the people."
"What I decided to do is make a switch for the people," West said. "The people can identify with a Democrat. ... It's not about the color, but it's about what I can do for the people."
West will hope to capitalize on his role as protest leader who marched with thousands through the streets after Gray, 25, died from a severe spinal injury in police custody.
"A lot of people during the riots showed they were frustrated that they were not being heard," he said. "What I thought about was to let the people know that what once died is about to come alive again."
West was arrested in September with attempting to incite a riot, malicious destruction of property, disorderly conduct, disturbance of the peace, false imprisonment, and failure to obey for stopping traffic during a protest. He has called the charges "false" and said he was targeted by police because he had been leading the protest.
Aside from his ministry and social activism, West said, he is also the founder of West & Son Steady Trucking.
He said his priorities as councilman would be to advocate for changes to the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, build relationships with millennials, demand fair housing opportunities, create business and job development, make schools safer and promote education and youth initiative programs, and eliminate blight.
The 27-year-old, divorced father said his 8-year-old son, Jordon, and other young people he mentors are among his main reasons for seeking elected office.
"They're searching for something greater," he said. "They want to see it. I'm here to bring it about."
West faces challenges in the Democratic primary (which usually decides the election in heavily Democratic Baltimore) from Shawn Z. Tarrant, a former state delegate; Kenneth Paul Church; and Marshall C. Bell.