16 Released From Jail After Protests of Baltimore's New Police Commissioner

baltimore city hall
Sixteen protesters were arrested at city hall in Baltimore on October 15 for demonstrating against the appointment of a new police commissioner. Above, demonstrators rally at city hall in Baltimore on May 3. Eric Thayer/Reuters

All 16 people who were arrested inside Baltimore's City Hall after protesting the appointment of Kevin Davis as police commissioner the day prior were released from county jail early Friday morning.

Davis served as interim chief after Anthony Batts was forced out in July. Batts served as commissioner during the protests that rattled the city and occasionally turned violent earlier this year. The demonstrations were sparked by the death of Freddie Gray, an African-American man who died in police custody in April. Six officers are awaiting trial for charges related to his death.

Of the 16 arrested for trespassing, three were minors, and the others primarily young adults, according to Lawrence Grandpre, the director of research at Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle Baltimore, a youth-led think tank and advocacy group. Grandpre describes himself as an adult ally to the youth who organized the protest.

In addition to Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle Baltimore, members of Youth as Resources, the West Coalition, City Block, Baltimore Algebra Project, Baltimore Bloc and Black EXCELLence also attended the protest, The Baltimore Sun reported.

The protest began Wednesday evening as members of Baltimore's council appointments committee met to approve Davis. The city's complete council and the board of estimates, which is led by the city's mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, still must approve Davis for the commissioner position. Davis was suggested for the job by Rawlings-Blake and is expected to pass this step.

According to the Sun, Davis addressed the demonstrators on Wednesday and said he supports body cameras on police officers.

"The community will determine our success. There's no two ways about it," he said, adding that police officers need to take on a "guardian mentality" rather than a "warrior mentality," the Sun reported.

It is this "warrior mentality" that has irked the youth movement, Grandpre says.

"When there are potentially minor infractions in the process of people expressing their First Amendment right, instead of engaging these people in dialogue, they feel that during the short reign of the interim commissioner the police now escalate it to arrests," Grandpre explains. "[The protesters] first demand is for the commissioner to change his policy about aggressive policing of protesting."

"What we have is police who cannot delineate between a peaceful protest and someone targeting them, because they haven't had the training. I think the young people wanted a dialogue. They want substantive engagement," he adds.

In addition to taking issue with Davis's policing, Grandpre notes the protesters took issue with Baltimore's housing commissioner. Grandpre says the protesters also take exception to a plan to build a detention center for youth charged as adults. He argued that the funds would be better used for programs meant to engage the community and prevent young people from falling into the criminal justice system in the first place.

"This isn't just about Commissioner Davis. This is about a larger system of injustice," Grandpre says.