Five people were arrested at the Maryland State House on Monday as they participated in civil disobedience as part of the revived Poor People’s Campaign originally launched by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 50 years ago.
The five were among several dozen people who rallied outside the State House in the name of social and environmental justice. It was the fourth such protest in Annapolis in as many weeks. As at the others, there were arrests when participants entered the State House and refused to end their protests.
Danielle Blocker, one of three chairs of the Maryland Poor People’s Campaign, said the Annapolis protests are part of an effort in 37 states and the District of Columbia to call attention to issues such as poverty, racism, universal health care and environmental degradation.
The original Poor People’s Campaign was launched by King before his assassination in April 1968 and went on that summer with a march on Washington under the leadership of the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, King’s successor as leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
“Poverty is still a huge problem in the United States 50 years later,” Blocker said. “We want to change the narrative that blames the poor for being poor — like it’s their own fault.”
Before the arrests, activists sang songs and made speeches on the mall before a smaller group of volunteers passed through security and entered the State House. Most of the protesters remained on the steps as police warned that people arrested in previous protests would not be admitted to the capitol.
The arrests occurred in a businesslike manner, with no signs of hostility on the part of protesters or police.
Five protesters stood near the base of the steps that lead to the Governor’s Office and read out a series of grievances in loud voices. When they sat down on the marble floor and continued to recite their demands, Maryland Capitol Police Chief Michael S. Wilson warned them they would be arrested if they didn’t lower their voices and move.
They refused and were led away in restraints to police cars outside the State House as protesters on the steps sang.
Nick Cavey, a spokesman for the capitol police, said the five were charged with refusal or failure to leave a public building and failure to obey a reasonable and lawful order. All were released after signing citations. Cavey did not immediately identify the arrested individuals.
Additional protests are planned for the next two Mondays, Blocker said.