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Local News

In the Media: Arrests at #AFROMATION Protest During Artscape; City Council Divided over Minimum Wage

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A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From City Paper: 65 arrests at #AFROMATION protest that moved through Artscape and onto I-83

"Sixty-five people were arrested as part of #AFROMATION, a protest against police misconduct that moved from Mount Vernon to Artscape and then onto I-83 on Saturday. Organized by Makayla Gilliam-Price, alumna of City College's activist group City Bloc, with assistance from Baltimore Bloc, Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ) Baltimore, Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, and others, the march began at Guilford Avenue and Chase Street around 5 p.m. Protesters moved through Artscape soon after. Gilliam-Price hinted at the action via social media for the past week or so and the group conducted Civil Disobedience Training on Wednesday for the action, whose date and time was kept private until the last moment.

"#AFROMATION released a statement, bookended by quotes from Assata Shakur and Mary Hooks, announcing two demands: the creation of a civilian review board for police investigations and a city police budget that earmarked 10 percent for community programming. The march is was described as a 'concerted effort to affirm the existence of black life and to lead the charge in this nation against the system of unjust police practices.'

"Protesters moved from Artscape, near Penn Station, to the on-ramp of I-83 via St. Paul Street. They proceeded onto the highway, locking arms and briefly blocking traffic as they formed a line stretching across one side of the interstate. Police asked the group to move for an ambulance and protesters obliged, moving to the shoulder, only to see two police vans pull up. There was no ambulance. Police then told the group to move off of I-83, and then they were arrested. Some activists said they were essentially 'trapped' on the ramp and, while not involved in blocking traffic, they were not allowed to retreat once arrests began. Fifty-five adults and 10 teenagers were arrested.

"Included among those arrested was City Paper photographer Courtney Hawkins, who was there on assignment shooting the protest. Another journalist and occasional City Paper contributor, M. Holden Warren, was also arrested, along with at least one legal observer. Police initially announced that 20 people were detained but later amended that number to 65. Those arrested were given criminal and traffic citations for 'failure to obey' and for 'illegally walking on the highway.'

"Due to the volume of arrests, some protesters were held in Penn Station until they were picked up by police vans, and a number of those arrested spent hours handcuffed in police vans as they waited to be 'processed' by police. Several people whose children, friends, or partners were arrested told City Paper the Northern District, where protesters were said to be taken, was unhelpful, simply telling them the police could provide 'no information' and hanging up. Others, who showed up at Central Booking when no information was provided over the phone, were threatened with arrest."

Full Article

From the Baltimore Sun: Baltimore City Council Divided over $15 minimum wage

"Baltimore City Council members plan to begin work this week on legislation that would rapidly increase the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour — a proposal that has drawn heavy criticism from city agencies, economists and businesses.

"Council members are split on the measure, which would increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2020. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has not formally opposed the bill, but the city's Finance Department estimated it would cost the city more than $150 million over the next five years, and push the unemployment rate as high as 10.6 percent.

"'This would return the City to the unemployment levels of the Great Recession, and virtually all of the jobs lost would be youth, young adults and unskilled jobs,' the department reported.

"Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke introduced the bill in April amid a national movement to increase the minimum wage. The federal minimum wage is $7.25. New York, California, the District of Columbia, San Francisco and Seattle all have approved legislation to push the rate to $15 over time.

"Maryland's minimum wage increased to $8.75 from $8.25 this month, the first of several yearly bumps approved by state lawmakers two years ago to bring the rate to $10.10 an hour by 2018.

"David Cooper, an analyst for the liberal Economic Policy Institute, called attempts to predict the cost of the bill 'pure speculation' and a 'total shot in the dark.'

"Clarke called the Finance Department's analysis 'worse than hypothetical' with 'absolutely no basis.'

"'They're creating a dramatic number which is a way for this administration to oppose this legislation without saying so,' she said.

"Others have expressed concerns. William H. Cole IV, the director of the Baltimore Development Corp., wrote to the council that it 'would most likely lead to increased prices for goods and services, reduced employment opportunities and possible relocation or closure of some businesses.'"

Full Article

From the Baltimore Sun: Two key Maryland delegates oppose Republican convention rules

"Two Maryland delegates to the Republican National Convention have signed a letter opposing the convention rules that will be considered on the floor today -- arguing that party leadership missed an opportunity to give more authority to grassroots activists. 

"Nicolee Ambrose and Jim Crawford, the two delegates from Maryland who served on the convention rules committee, had supported rules changes that would have given more power to convention delegates, stripping it from the RNC chairman and other party leaders.

"Ambrose and Crawford are the Maryland representatives on the 112-member rules committee that is made up of delegates from each state.

"'After a highly competitive primary season, the RNC leadership had the opportunity to unify grassroots activists and prove we are the party of fairness, transparency, and rule of law,' the two wrote in a letter to fellow convention delegates.

"'Instead, we were force fed a rules package we simply cannot support. We encourage our fellow convention delegates to vote against the majority rules report.'

"The issues raised in the letter are separate from the higher-profile fight that has taken place over allowing delegates to 'vote their conscience' and oppose Donald Trump -- even if their state's voters supported him. Still, the concerns raised in the letter nevertheless underscore the tension that exists within the party as it prepares to formally nominate Trump.

"The rules package approved last week by the rules committee is expected to win approval on the floor today despite the objections.

"In the letter -- which is also signed by Kendal Unruh of Colorado and 11 others -- Ambrose and Crawford object to the 'centralization of authority solely in the chairman's office,' provisions that make it harder for party members to contact rules committee members and 'denying RNC members the needed opportunity to review rules changes before they go to an immediate vote.'"

Full Article