Trayvon Rally in Bmore
There was a rally on Sunday, which attracted one to a few hundred people, depending on who you believe. Another was scheduled for Monday at 5 PM, so I walked over after work. I had attended a thousand person solidarity march right after Trayvon was killed, and was inwardly hoping for a similar turnout to protest an obviously disappointing verdict.
I began the familiar walk along Inner Harbor, past strollers, tourists and joggers. Behind Rita’s Iced-Custard-Happiness were a few dozen small black and white kids cavorting in a fountain of upward spraying jets – joyfully escaping the Baltimore heat alert. Even at the height of Occupy Baltimore, the rest of Inner Harbor seemed completely normal, so I wasn’t expecting to see any sign of a protest until I got to McKeldin Square.
Crossing the northbound lanes of Light Street at 4:30 or so, I first noticed a black police van, a Tactical Assistance Response Unit, about the size of a large hook and ladder truck. I saw the yellow shoulders of a bike police officer prowling the upper levels of the McKeldin Fountain. There were maybe a dozen demonstrators near the southbound lane of Light and a fellow at a table was handing out signs. Several people were waving signs at traffic at the Pratt & Light Street intersection. Some signs had a picture with We Are All Trayvon Martin, others called for Community Control of Police, Say No to Racial Profiling, and some called for jobs.
A WJZ news van was parked to the north and a much larger Mercedes Bluetec news truck was in front of that. ABC was in a Ford Transit Connect and Fox was nestled in a Subaru SUV. They all had small dishes on top.
A tall white man in business attire was talking to protestors while a cameraman filmed. A fellow got out of the Mercedes and I think it was Tim Tooten from WBAL. It was hot, so I looked for a shady place to wait. In contrast to the Occupy days, the fountain was clean and flowing with water. I played tourist and walked behind the main spillway. By this time, another police truck had arrived. A patrol car disgorged four more officers, then about a dozen were dropped off by a police van. At that point there were almost thirty police officers and perhaps twenty-five demonstrators.
A foursome of police were looking towards the fountain, one in a white shirt. White shirt waved towards the upper levels, seeming to say, “Secure the high ground, boys!” Two pairs headed up the steps, carrying plastic bottles of water. Two officers stood next to me, and asked how I was doing. I said I was good, and moved back down to the plaza. The fountain had an officer at every opening, and there were police across all the intersections. I heard a noise, looked up and saw two black police helicopters hovering above.
A news truck marked with Noticias and the Univision logo pulled in and a heavily made up Hispanic woman got out, followed by a cameraman. A small person with a megaphone was leading, “No Justice, No Peace!” and, “Trayvon didn’t need to die!,” and other slogans. The crowd had grown past fifty people, and were still soliciting honks from passing cars. A man with a Fidel Castro t-shirt that read El Comandante was handing out flyers. A middle-aged black woman complained to a young man that the media didn’t know how to count. A white woman unfurled a red Occupy Baltimore flag. A large officer was walking the perimeter, handing out more cold bottles of water to all the officers on watch. A very thin young white woman wearing a black tee and running shorts was on the fringes near me. She was drinking an iced coffee or something, and seemed to be debating whether to stay and watch or leave. She eventually wandered away.
By about 5:30 a black man in dreadlocks (Lee Patterson on the WBAL video below) was leading a complicated rallying cry, but the focus had shifted and demonstrators were now facing away from Light and Pratt Streets. The crowd seemed to be around 100 strong, but people were coming and going, and except for a core of chanters, I felt very little sense of energy. By about 5:40 I stopped expecting it to become a major rally, and walked back to my car. Inner Harbor was as unaffected and normal as when I walked in.
Update 20130716: WBALTV’s video. Looks like the group swelled to about 200 and marched to the War Memorial.