On January 15th, hundreds of protesters in Baltimore, Maryland defied the police in what was called a “Strike Against Racism” in order to continue Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of fighting against injustice. Gathering at McKeldin Square at 4pm, members of FIST joined a diverse group including the People’s Power Assembly, SCLC, UNITE HERE Local 7, 32BJ SEIU, the IWW, and people from Baltimore’s many oppressed communities. A rally was held that included songs of struggle, poetry, and a speakout for the issues of youth in particular. Students from high schools and universities around the city spoke out on the outrageous epidemic of police violence and the lack of opportunities for young people.
Following the rally, protesters marched towards the headquarters of the Baltimore City Police Department so that a letter demanding the indictment of killer cops could be delivered. When protesters were only a few blocks away, BPD officers blocked their way and refused to allow them to continue to the police station. With their way blocked, protesters decided to disrupt traffic downtown as much as possible.
Later, FIST members helped to redirect the march towards the wealthy district of Harbor East where the members of SEIU were organizing. This tied together the issue of racist police terror with the economic injustice exemplified by the wealthy patrons and the low wage workers in the district.
After a short talk in Harbor East, the protest moved back towards Downtown. Protesters marched straight into traffic along Pratt Street, one of the major roads through the city. At the height of rush hour, protesters held one of the busiest intersections in the city for a considerable time. Again there was a speakout against the problems that working and oppressed people face in Baltimore City.
A video of the events that night created by The City Paper can be viewed here: Protesters Rally Against Police Brutality
Imprisonment of a Key Organizer
Despite all of the success of the action, a shadow hung over the city on Dr. King’s birthday. Earlier that day, when attempting to enroll in classes at a local community college 23 year old Sara Benjamin, FIST comrade and mother to a 5 year old girl, was the victim of political repression and arrested by the Baltimore City Police on an old warrant for failing to appear in court for a minor charge nearly a year ago. The police had letter-sized “wanted posters” with her image on them when they took her into custody, indicating the amount of effort put into capturing her. The timing of the arrest was most certainly not a coincidence.
Sara, a young black woman, was targeted on the day of the protest because of her race and her leading role in the struggle against police terror. When she was in jail she was placed in “protective custody” and the guards told her it was “because you’re the director of an organization” referring to her role in FIST and the People’s Power Assembly. While in jail she refused to answer the guards questions about FIST and the PPA. Late Friday night Sara was finally bailed out of jail by her comrades in Workers World Party and FIST.
All of the circumstances lead us to believe that Sara was the victim of politically targeted repression due to her organizing for an end to racist police terror! With the movement against police brutality growing everyday, it is expected that the capitalist state will continue and intensify it’s repression of activists, yet we cannot be intimidated. FIST stands firmly in solidarity with Sara and all other victims of political repression who are fighting for a better world!