Marilyn Mosby’s Middle Finger to Keith Davis—and Baltimore

Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby lied this week, by way of the State’s Attorney’s official Twitter account, and that’s a big deal. Mosby was caught on video Wednesday putting her middle finger up at a resident who spotted her at downtown Baltimore restaurant Sandlot and yelled “Free Keith Davis Jr.” The video was quickly shared on social media. In response to a tweet from Davis’ wife, Kelly, someone from the SAO’s office tweeted out: “This is clearly a thumb guys – enough already. Let’s move on.”

The problem was that it was not just a thumb, as reporter Justine Barron pointed out via high-quality screenshots of the video—it was a middle finger.

Kelly, along with other supporters of Keith’s cause, have long argued that Mosby’s pursuit of Davis is personal, not professional. Sinced 2016, Mosby has been trying to convict Davis for the murder of a Baltimore security guard named Kevin Jones. However, the case is a complicated one. Davis was shot by police in June 2015, and near his unconscious body was a gun, which police later claimed Davis used to shoot Jones. Davis’ first trial resulted in a hung jury, as did his third trial. The second trial ended in a guilty verdict—and the State’s Attorney’s office tweeted “victory” afterward—but Davis was granted another trial because the background of one of the prosecution’s key witnesses was not fully disclosed to the jury. In 2019, during his fourth trial, Davis was found guilty again, but that conviction was overturned just last week, and now it’s up to Mosby to take him to trial again or drop the charges.

Mosby is one of the city’s most visible and highest-ranking officials, and her position means that she weighs in on life-or-death matters involving the mostly Black and Brown residents moving through Baltimore’s criminal justice pipeline. It’s imperative that someone in her position be a person who can be trusted to keep their word. That she was able to lie so easily about something so easy to disprove raises the question: what else has she been dishonest about? And if Mosby was willing to use the State’s Attorney’s Office’s social media account, which is supposed to be used to educate the public, to further her own agenda, what other public-facing entities is she willing to utilize to her personal advantage?  

As we have written about before, Marilyn Mosby and her husband, Council President Nick Mosby, are already intertwined in an ugly and unaddressed conflict of interest. They are a married couple that both hold executive-level offices in Baltimore City: Marilyn at the SAO and Nick as president of the Baltimore City Council. Nick is the head of a body that approves the budget for Marilyn’s department. The two are also the subject of an ongoing federal investigation into their financial matters. Neither Mosby has indicated that they would step back from operating in their normal capacities in any way, and no other city officials have indicated that they should. Mosby’s lie makes all of this much worse. 

Security Deposit Insurance Vetoed by Mayor

Tenants’ rights advocates had to wait until the very last minute to learn that Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott had decided to veto the so-called “security insurance” bill which was approved by Baltimore City Council last month. The deadline was Monday, May 17 at 5 p.m., and that’s when Scott made his announcement and published his letter about the veto to Council President Nick Mosby, who, along with Councilperson Sharon Middleton, sponsored the bill, and, as recent reporting revealed, worked closely with Rhino.

“I simply cannot ignore the significant concerns over the security deposit insurance option in the legislation. This provision could potentially hurt the very people this bill seeks to help. In this case, the benefits of an installment plan for security deposits do not outweigh the potential costs of the security deposit insurance provision to already vulnerable residents,” Scott said in a statement.

According to multiple people Battleground Baltimore spoke to, Scott’s decision was not only announced at the last minute, but whether or not he would veto the bill was still being weighed within his office on the evening of Sunday, May 16. Earlier that day, Baltimore Brew released a damning story based on emails received via a public information request which showed, as the Brew said, that Rhino’s “involvement in the months that followed was significant, as Bill 21-0022 was discussed, amended, and finally approved by the Council.”

The bill, which was presented as a way of helping renters pay for their security deposit, was really a surety bond that often ensnares renters in fees and further limits their ability to challenge landlords in rent court.

In response to the veto, Nick Mosby released a statement which ridiculously described the veto of the “security insurance” bill as “modern day redlining,” and claimed, “this is what structural racism looks like in practice: Government’s role turns paternalistic when it comes to poor Black people.” Battleground Baltimore’s Lisa Snowden-McCray characterized the statement as Mosby “weaponiz[ing] identity politics.”

The Brew’s article also shows that Mosby lied when he claimed on local public radio affiliate WYPR that he “had no relationship with Rhino,” the company that would profit from this bill if it went into law and has introduced similar bills in other cities. “The correspondence shows [a Rhino lobbyist] worked closely with a legislative staffer for City Council President Nick Mosby.”

Battleground Baltimore reached out to Mosby’s office the day of his WYPR comments and twice over the past week and received no responses.

The victory here is for Baltimore’s perpetually mistreated renters, but it also illustrates the effect that grassroots organizing and alternative media can have on fraught neoliberal policies that, in the past, Baltimore City has been comfortable rubber-stamping.

Baltimore Renters United (BRU), one of the primary groups organizing against this bill, praised Scott’s decision to veto it.

“If this [bill] had passed into law, it would have harmed real people, including members of our coalition and those of the nearly 50 organizations, representing a huge swathe of Baltimore City, who signed on to our letter urging a veto from Mayor Scott,” BRU said in a statement. “The bill’s passage would have harmed the very people its supporters purport to want to protect, and instead would have enriched New York-based venture capitalists at our expense. We do need real solutions for tenants, but what this bill offered was exploitation. We also want to be clear that a groundswell of solidarity around this bill, from every part of the city we love, will not stop. We will continue to build with our supporters in our ongoing fight for housing justice in Baltimore City, and we hope that the Baltimore City Council will be willing to work with us to protect the right to fair and equitable housing in the future.”

While the City Council could override Scott’s veto, that does not seem likely. 

Baltimore Stands With Palestine

Last week in Battleground Baltimore, we discussed “connecting the deep history of racism, segregation, and brutal, boundary-enforcing police in Baltimore to the decades of Israeli occupation in Palestine,” best represented in chants heard during 2015’s uprising: “From Baltimore to Palestine, Occupation is Not a Crime.” 

At the Baltimore Stands With Palestine rally and march on Tuesday, May 18, more than 200 people gathered at Baltimore’s City Hall, and many of the event’s speakers discussed those connections more deeply. Dana Abushanab, described how a friend told her when she moved to Baltimore, “the streets of Baltimore are like the streets of Palestine.”

“When I talk about the youth here in Baltimore City it’s hard not to get choked up because the reality for us Palestinians is that we don’t get to see our babies, we don’t get to see our young people as a fundamental condition of Zionism, of being a people who live in exile,” Abushanab said. “When I look at the Black youth in Baltimore City, I see Palestine too, I see young Palestinian people and I don’t think they understand … how much it means to me to be able to work alongside the grassroots community here.”

Then Abushanab led the crowd in a chant of, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Zainab Chaudry, the Maryland Outreach Director for the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR), addressed the United States’ role in supporting Israel and President Joe Biden’s administration approving $735 million in arms sales to Israel.

“Enough is enough. We are heartbroken by the news that has been coming out of Palestine over the last two weeks but not only over the last two weeks but over the last 54 years of military occupation and the last 73 years of ethnic cleansing that has been happening to Palestine,” Chaudry said. “This is a genocide that is happening with our tax dollars. We are here today to call on the Biden administration and our elected officials that we don’t need Eid celebrations brothers and sisters, we don’t need Iftars, we need our government officials to stop funding the dropping of bombs on our brothers and sisters in Palestine.”

Since Tuesday’s event, Biden has announced what he has characterized as “a mutual, unconditional ceasefire,” though many have noted the limits of that, which does not address a potential peace process, Palestinian self-determination, or Israel’s war crimes over the past two weeks. 

Another speaker at Tuesday’s rally was Rabbi Ariana Katz, of Hinenu, the “Baltimore Justice Shtiebl” that provided Battleground Baltimore with a powerful statement last week. Katz continued speaking for Jews who comprehend the realities of Israeli occupation for Palestinians.

“I speak on behalf of a strong and present and growing movement of Jewish people who say the liberation of the Palestinian people is urgent and necessary and a long overdue reality,” Katz said. “Liberation is not only possible but it is on its way. When we look around us here in Baltimore or when we direct our attention to Palestine it feels hard to imagine, but it is our solemn duty. This does not mean acting as if life and death are out of our hands. To believe liberation is possible, to feel it just around the corner is to get ready for it.”

NAACP Baltimore President Kobi Little also spoke.

“I’m here today because I’m a global citizen. I’m here today because I’m a child of revolution. I’m here today because I know the struggle of Black people, I know the struggle of African people, I know the struggle of Indigenous people—I know the struggle for justice,” Little said. “I believe in self-defense, but self-defense is not annexation. Self-defense is not occupation. Self-defense is not genocide. Self-defense is not expansion into other people’s land.”

The crowd, which had grown closer to 300, then briefly marched through Baltimore, waving Palestinian flags, as chants of “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” “Gaza, Gaza don’t you cry, Palestine will never die,” and and “Allahu Akbar” bounced off of buildings downtown, including the hulking, brutalist Baltimore Police Department headquarters.

Among those at the rally was Iranian, Baltimore-based visual artist Taha Heydari, who spoke with Battleground Baltimore about why he attended.

“I didn’t think about why I attended, I just went. It’s just so embedded in my upbringing. I was born and raised in Iran. It was always on TV, Palestine and Israel. So I’ve always been conscious. That’s my personal relationship to it,” Heydari said. “Also I remember my dad holding me and running to shelters while Tehran was bombarded by Iraqi bombs. So I feel that I’m familiar with what’s happening in Palestine—it’s deep in my subconscious. And also, I’m familiar with oppression growing up in Iran, being watched, being controlled. The gaze of the state is always there. I can recognize that gaze when I feel it.” 

For Heydari, a painter whose work often incorporates and explores politically charged, historical images, he was also thinking of how Palestine is represented and covered in the press.

“When I see Israel and Palestine, I think about how I’ve never been there. But I’m left with images, I’m bombarded with images of Israel and Palestine,” Heydari said. “So I question the representation, the platform, the tools and media. So my work investigates these through painting.”

Heydari noted the connections between the occupation of Palestine and activists occupying the lawn in front of City Hall on Tuesday, and back in 2015, protesting police brutality.

“Standing in front of the City Hall building—that has a history,” Heydari said. “That area has been occupied before, for Freddie Gray, for George Floyd.”

On Saturday, May 21 at 5 p.m., there will be a Resistance Until Liberation rally in front of City Hall to “demand that Baltimore City reject all ties to the Zionist state and to show that from Baltimore to Palestine, the fight for liberation continues.”


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Former Managing Editor and Baltimore Editor

Lisa Snowden has been working in news for over 15 years. She specializes in reporting on race, policing, and Baltimore City. She is also the editor of Baltimore Beat, a nonprofit news outlet in Baltimore City.