At least 2 protesters were arrested as they confronted powerful police union officials over their support for what they say are illegal and racist policing
TAYA GRAHAM, TRNN: This is Taya Graham reporting for the Real News Network in Baltimore City, Maryland. I’m outside the Hyatt hotel, where the Fraternal Order of Police is having a convention. But protesters have arrived to demand change after the release of the damning Department of Justice report. The protesters initially gathered at McKeldin Square in downtown Baltimore to air their grievances and list their demands. RALIKH HAYES: Our actions are taken in unity with the visionary platform released earlier this month by the Movement for Black Lives in response to the recently-released Department of Justice report which found that Baltimore Police Department routinely violates the civil rights of Baltimore residents. Our task is to dismantle the pro-police system of oppression that fosters collusion between the Fraternal Order of Police, the local and statewide police departments, and the state’s attorney’s office. GRAHAM: Rev. C.D. Witherspoon, an activist who has fought against police brutality for years, says the state’s police union is the driving force behind many of the worst transgressions found by the Department of Justice in their report, which was released this week. C.D. WITHERSPOON: The Fraternal Order of Police has a legacy of what people in Baltimore City consider to be, quite frankly, racist policing. Last year during the uprising, the vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police called people in my neighborhood, Sandtown, where I live, animals and thugs. This year, of course, the head of the FOP went after the state’s attorney when she had the guts to indict the officers in the Freddie Gray case. What we kind of sort of view the Fraternal Order of Police is, is an organization very reminiscent to the white citizens council. You have people who are officials within the city government, police officers, reinforcers of the law, who are members of the Fraternal Order of Police. They leverage their position as employees of the city and as Baltimore City police officers to influence the political arena. GRAHAM: That report, which concluded the Baltimore Police Department regularly engaged in racist and unconstitutional behavior, prompted demands from protesters that the FOP disband. The group marched to the Hyatt hotel, where union delegates will hold a four-day conference Sunday through Wednesday. As people demanded to be let inside, several activists managed to enter the building, where they chained themselves together, and were later arrested. Outside the hotel, the passion and mistrust of the state’s top policing organization was evident as protesters continued to chant and attempted to disrupt the conference. [Protesters chanting] Later, police confirmed the arrest of 12 people, all of whom refused to leave the hotel lobby–acts of civil disobedience Rev. Witherspoon says will continue until the demands are met, and civilian control over police becomes the new reality. Changes needed in a city that he says answers more to the FOP than the people they’ve sworn to serve. WITHERSPOON: We believe it is a racist hate group that has been allowed to receive too much political influence in the city of Baltimore. GRAHAM: This is Taya Graham and Stephen Janis reporting for the Real News Network in Baltimore City, Maryland.
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