An #Afromation demonstration in Baltimore that blocked northbound traffic on the Interstate 83 was soon broken up when police moved in and arrested demonstrators. The Baltimore Sun reported a total of 55 adults arrested, along with 10 minors. Original reports stated only 20 arrests, but this climbed quickly to 65 in total. Demonstrators were either moved into nearby Penn Police Station or onto vans.
Baltimore police engaging in mass arrests now. pic.twitter.com/kThizxHrcD
— Action.Brotha.Jedi (@BmoreDoc) July 16, 2016
According to The Baltimore Sun, processing of the arrested #Afromation demonstrators was still continuing at midnight, hours after the arrests. This is confirmed by a tweet uploaded by one of those arrested.
— Pickle (@pennywas) July 17, 2016
Pickle kept people informed of what was happening, saying that many had not yet been taken to Central Booking because of insufficient resources to process them all. As of 1:30 a.m., 6 hours after her arrest, she, and likely many other #Afromation demonstrators, had still not been made aware of the charges.
I was never read my rights, no one were read their rights. We don't know the charges. #AFROMATION— Pickle (@pennywas) July 17, 2016
ABC News reports that demonstrators were charged with failure to obey police and cited for traffic charges for walking on the highway. #Afromation demonstrators were reportedly chanting “hands up, don’t shoot.”
— _59Alex (@_59Alex) July 17, 2016
One of the #Afromation demonstration organizers, David Blaim, was interviewed by The Baltimore Sun. He said that when police came and told them to move off the road onto the shoulders, most people complied. Police had said an ambulance was coming. Instead of an ambulance, however, two police vans appeared and the arrests began.
“No one resisted arrest, Blair said. Police did not use any visible force, though Blair said a couple of protesters were forced onto their knees.”
On a WBAL TV11 news report, the announcer defines #Afromation for viewers and then provides background for the demonstration.
“It is an affirmation of life in the face of so much Black death. It was also organized in response to police involved shooting deaths of Philando Castille and Alton Sterling last week…. The group wants changes to laws and they also want more police accountability.”
#Afromation demands include reallocating 10 percent of the police budget to community programs, according to ABC News.
One Twitter account holder noted that demonstrations such as the #Afromation protest in Baltimore are a form of civil disobedience that should be respected as a part of citizens’ rights to free speech.
However, it is doubtful that free speech includes blocking the free passage of other citizens on public roads. That is the apparent justification for the arrests of demonstrators. Other than that, the #Afromation protest was orderly and quiet. It is likely that had the protesters remained on the side of the road, they would not have been arrested.
If the following tweet is any indication, arrested demonstrators were finally being processed and released in the early hours of Sunday morning. There is no information regarding whether or not the minors were handled differently from the adults.
got arrested @ #AFROMATION today. i along with 9 other protestors are in the process of being released & were held for 9+ hours.— zion (@thelegendzion) July 17, 2016
Arrested #Afromation demonstrators will come to their own personal conclusions regarding the meaning of the demonstration, its potential impact and the experience of arrest.
— magical princess ♡ (@princessferiell) July 17, 2016
On their way to the highway, the #Afromation demonstration had marched through the streets hosting “Artscape,” a weekend arts festival, then in its second day. The demonstration and arrests of demonstrators had a temporary effect on the “Artscape” event. A crowd of “Artscape” goers gathered to chant their support for the demonstrators, according to The Baltimore Sun.
The Towson Patch describes “Artscape” as the largest free arts festival in the United States and lists road closures scheduled for the duration of the festival. It is safe to say that the closure of the Interstate 83 by #Afromation demonstrators was not on that list.
[Image via Twitter]