Students, community members and faculty members protested the University’s proposed private police force, its contracts with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and police brutality in Baltimore in Wyman Park Dell on Wednesday, April 24. Later, protesters marched to Garland Hall.
Students Against Private Police (SAPP) and Hopkins Coalition Against ICE (HCAI) organized their fourth rally alongside organizers of West Wednesdays, a weekly vigil held in honor of Tyrone West.
West died in 2013 while in police custody. Morgan State University police officers were investigated in conjunction with West’s death.
West’s sister, Tawanda Jones, started the vigils shortly after her brothers’ death and has since held 299 West Wednesdays.
Jones was the first speaker at the rally. She discussed both the controversy surrounding the University’s proposed police force as well as the broader problem of police brutality and corruption in Baltimore.
“I always say that this justice system isn’t for us. All we say is, there is no justice. It’s just us trying to hold folks accountable, because to me, justice does not allow unarmed men and women to be murdered, and nobody getting held accountable, especially by people who are supposed to protect us,“ Jones said.
Jones clarified that she harbors no animosity toward any authorities.
“I want to be clear that I’m not anti-police. It’s different from being anti-police brutality... If you brutalize anybody, that’s dead wrong. Let’s be clear on that,“ she said. “I don’t hate anyone. This whole thing, for 299 weeks, has been driven by love.”
Following speeches, the protesters marched up Wyman Park Drive and South Gate, eventually entering Garland Hall. The crowd occupied the first and second floors.
Mariel Mendez, a student at Georgetown University, joined the rally in solidarity with Hopkins students. Mendez was inspired to participate as a result of the social media presence of the sit-in.
“We saw that things were escalating. We saw videos of folks questioning President Daniels on his way home,” Mendez said. “We know that the police in this country specifically serve to terrorize people of color, specifically black people and to protect capital. So we just wanted to be in solidarity with the folks here who have planned this super long sit-in, because we know how antagonistic University administrators are.”
Some protesters also gave speeches at Garland Hall, which centered on protecting minority rights and challenging the University administration. A group of Georgetown University students also attended the rally and spoke at Garland Hall.
According to Daniel Hellerbach, a community member and school administrator in Baltimore, the presence of a new police force in Baltimore would fail to address the needs of community residents.
“I initially was advocating and fighting against the private police force against Hopkins,” he said. “I saw it just as an extension of what is already an over-policed city, and I know as a community member that more police is not going to make our community safer or stronger.”