Officials in Maryland worried that out-of-town protest leader Malik Shabazz would incite violence at a protest planned the weekend after rioting wracked Baltimore, newly released documents show, and had been monitoring his activities in the city for a week.
Shabazz, the president of Washington-based Black Lawyers for Justice and former leader of the New Black Panther Party, came to Baltimore to help lead protests, and his activities were closely watched by city officials, the documents show.
A bulletin sent out by the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center, a group that circulates information between federal and local law enforcement, warned police officers to be on their guard ahead of a planned protest led by Shabazz on May 2.
"Based on over a generation of violent and anti-law enforcement rhetoric attributed to the NBPP and Shabazz specifically, representatives from law enforcement and homeland security agencies providing support in Baltimore should maintain a heightened awareness for intentional acts of violence committed during events associated with Shabazz," the May 1 Officer Safety Bulletin reads.
"Until 2013 Shabazz served as the chairman of the NBPP, a prominent black separatist group that espouses violence and criminal activity to further separatist, racist, anti-Semitic agenda, according to the FBI."
The coordination and analysis center was set up after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and its use to track protests has been controversial in the past. The bulletin reminds recipients that in most cases demonstrating is a constitutionally protected activity.
Shabazz could not immediately be reached for comment Monday, but in an interview in May he defended his presence in Baltimore.
"They can say what they want about me not being invited, or being welcomed here," he said then. "Justice comes about through men like me coming on to the scene and taking a hard line. And I take a hard line for justice."
Authorities had been circulating updates on Shabazz for almost a week by that point. Robert Maloney, the head of the city's emergency management agency, had asked for half-hourly updates on a protest Shabazz was involved in on April 25.
One of Maloney's subordinates wrote in one update that city officials were trying to help Freddie Gray's family during the protest and minimize Shabazz's role.
"Gray's 1/2 brother is with the crowd preaching peace, but is being talked over by Shabaaz [sic] who has a louder bullhorn," an official wrote to Maloney. "We are trying to get the brother a louder bullhorn because he's a good peaceful influence."
Later when violence broke out in the area around Camden Yards, the official blamed a group led by Shabazz.
"The out of towners, led by Shabazz, are at Camden Yards attempting to disrupt gameday operations," the official wrote. "Along their way down there, some windows have been broken on cars / store fronts. BPD is monitoring but not engaging substantially in any way that would agitate."