Baltimore police disbanded an overnight occupation of City Hall by activists demanding better policing and opposed to the permanent appointment of Baltimore's interim police commissioner.
Dozens of police officers converged outside the building hours before dawn as activists were still inside from a protest sit-in that began Wednesday. Several of the demonstrators were seen being led off in plastic handcuffs and loaded into transport vehicles. Police have not officially said how many people were arrested.
"It is our duty to fight for our freedom! We have nothing to lose but our chains!" protesters watching the police operation shouted at the officers.
Baltimore police, in a statement released early Thursday morning, said: “The remaining protesters refused to leave the building. As a direct result of their failure to comply, the remaining protesters have been arrested and charged with trespassing. There are no reported injuries at this time to any protesters or officers.”
Following the police operation, police were seen leaving and the complex was largely quiet by 5 a.m.
On Wednesday night, members of the Baltimore Uprising coalition, which includes both high school and community activists, had begun shouting from the upper gallery of City Council chambers as a Council subcommittee prepared to vote for Kevin Davis as permanent commissioner. The full council will vote on the appointment Monday.
"All night, all day, we will fight for Freddie Gray!" the activists chanted amid calls to postpone the vote. "No justice, no peace!"
Freddie Gray, a black man, died in April from injuries received while in police custody. His death sparked unrest and rioting in the city. The first trial in the case against six Baltimore police officers charged in Grey’s arrest and death is scheduled to be held Nov. 30.
Three of the subcommittee's five members voted in favor of Davis. Councilman Nick Mosby, who is married to State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, voted against the confirmation, while Carl Stokes, who is running for mayor, abstained.
After the vote, committee members began to leave but the protesters refused to go. Police spokesman T.J. Smith said in an email that 35 protesters were inside and that police were "monitoring the situation."
Earlier Wednesday, a spokesman for the group said the protesters would not leave until Davis and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake agreed to a list of demands. Among them: that police avoid using military-type equipment such as armored vehicles, and only use riot gear as a last resort to protect officers.
Rawlings-Blake appointed Davis interim commissioner in July after his predecessor, Anthony Batts, was fired amid the most severe violent crime spike the city had seen in 43 years.
Following the subcommittee's vote, Davis called Wednesday night's protest an "act of civil disobedience" that "is just part of this moment."
"It's all part of the healing process," he said. "The fact that this occurred isn't upsetting. It's just part of where the city is right now."
The Associated Press