Tawanda Jones, sister of Tyrone West, who died in police custody in 2013, hosted the 300th West Wednesday rally and march on Wednesday.
For the past four weeks of the sit-in at Garland Hall, student protesters have joined Jones for West Wednesday rallies, and recently the sit-in participants renamed a room in Garland after Tyrone West.
The rally began at the corner of Greenmount Avenue and 33rd Street. It kicked off with a speech from Jones.
Members of the Coalition of Concerned Mothers and Families United 4 Justice also spoke.
Jones read a poem that she wrote after West’s death.
A member of Women Against Private Police urged participants to sign a petition that may help stop the private police force that would otherwise take effect in June.
Afterward the protesters marched through the streets for an hour and ended at Garland Hall.
The West Coalition, which came together after Tyrone’s passing, has held a rally every Wednesday despite weather conditions.
Daniel Hellerbach, who lives in the Baltimore community and is a member of the West Coalition, has attended every West Wednesday rally for the past several years.
He believes that the continuous nature and persistence that Jones has exhibited during these rallies is inspiring.
“I see other people that have followed in Tawanda’s footsteps, and people begin to care about things they haven’t cared about before. They use her as a role model,” he said.
At the rally, Jones gave a speech denouncing police brutality and the corruption of law enforcement. She highlighted the city of Baltimore but also argued that corruption had spread across the world. Police misconduct is global.
“Two thousand and one hundred days we’ve been out here constantly fighting police brutality, murder and everything else that is wrong with the system. We’re gonna continue being out here. I knew that this wasn’t an isolated incident — that it was absolutely a worldwide thing. This means more than anything to me,” she said.
During Jones’ speech, she accused University President Ronald J. Daniels of threatening her through a message to her attorney with legal action if she was found on Hopkins campus after 6 p.m.
Jones also posted on Twitter and Facebook about Daniels’ message to her attorney.
She also said that Daniels blamed her for the actions of the students participating in the sit-in. In an interview with The News-Letter, Jones defended herself against these accusations.
“Mind you, each time I come, I am invited here by the students of Hopkins. I never just came up here for no reason. I do support what the students are doing. They are brave souls,” she said.
Vice President for Communications Susan Ridge responded to Jones’ accusations in an email to The News-Letter.
“The university has reached out informally (via phone call) to a representative of the ‘West Wednesday’ protest organizers, and to others, in order to convey the same health, safety and fire code limitations regarding university buildings that have been communicated regularly to participants in the Garland Hall sit-in and posted publicly on our website ... We are reminding protesters and others that entering the building when it is closed (6 p.m. to 7 a.m. on weekdays and during the weekend) is a violation of the university conduct code and is trespassing,” she wrote.
Lily Pine is a sophomore studying History who participated in the rally because she wanted to get involved in the sit-in but has not been as active as she would like. In an email to The News-Letter, she expressed support for her peers at the sit-in.
“I thought it was so awful that President Daniels said Tawanda Jones was not allowed on the Hopkins campus and wanted to stand against that. I really enjoyed the rally, there were definitely a broad range of people there, and it was really nice to see people from other schools also participating,” she wrote.
Jones reflected on how much Baltimore has changed since she first started holding West Wednesdays in 2013.
“Just reflecting on everything I saw within the 300 weeks and how the mayor changes [police commissioners] like she’s changing shoes. It’s utterly ridiculous to me how all the corruption is at the forefront,” she said. “Now [the citizens of Baltimore] can see for themselves with the elite Gun Trace Task Force and Detective Sean Suiter as well as the Uprising. When my brother was murdered, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was in office, and we had to run her down.”