Following a protest opposing the permanent appointment of interim Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis last night, dozens of activists occupied City Hall. The Baltimore Sun reports that officers arrived at 3:15 am warning that City Hall was closed and that they would be arrested for trespassing. Ninety minutes later, at least 12 of the remaining protestors—ages 16 to 38—were taken into custody.
Wednesday evening’s city council meeting included an appointments committee hearing on Davis’ four-month tenure at the head of the Baltimore Police Department and a vote to install him permanently. Council members reportedly questioned him about upping the number of officers patrolling the streets and employing body cameras, which Davis said he supported. He also talked about the importance of community policing and partnerships with federal law enforcement, and said he would maintain dialogue with all types of Baltimoreans to be sure he is policing for all. “The community will determine our success,” he said. “There’s no two ways about it.”
Three council members voted for him, one abstained, and one—Nick Mosby, the husband of State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby—voted against the appointment. Davis will now appear before the entire council on Monday for a full body vote; if he is approved, the Board of Estimates will vote on his contract.
While some supporters testified to his effectiveness, protestors used their time at the microphone to raise questions about Davis’ ability to lead a police force whose officers were charged with Freddie Gray’s death and is meant to protect and serve a city reporting a sharp increase in murders in 2015. Many of the activists in attendance were from the Baltimore Uprising coalition, which brings together members of Youth as Resources, Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, The West Coalition, City Bloc, Baltimore Algebra Project, Baltimore Bloc and Black EXCELLence. The group issued a statement regarding Davis’ appointment, which reads, in part:
It is clear that since Kevin Davis took office as interim police commissioner there has been a heightened aggression from law enforcement towards protesters…. Now the mayor has nominated Kevin Davis to carry the full responsibilities as commissioner. This is most troubling to community organizations and members as we exercise our First Amendment right to hold elected and appointed officials accountable for their actions.
Among the coalition’s demands are a ban on military-style police equipment, limit use of riot gear to last resort situations to protect officers, require officers to wear badges and name tags, require police to respect identified locations as “sacred ground” for protestors, and the establishment of alternate routes for citizens to navigate the city during protests.
Watch a video of the mostly-young activists being removed from City Hall here.