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The Nose

Street Fight

Posted 3/26/2003

Baltimore anti-war activists quickly responded to the United States' bombardment of Baghdad with sizable protests across the city, many of which, the Nose noticed, struck a more confrontational tone than pre-war demonstrations. On Thursday, March 20, the Nose witnessed a two-hour-long march in downtown Baltimore that was a fascinating snapshot of the often uneasy dynamic between police and anti-war protesters.The protest began near City Hall, and by 5:30 p.m. several hundred protesters had gathered around War Memorial Plaza. Some attempted to halt traffic by standing in the street and linking arms (post-invasion, many activists have vowed to publicize their objections to the war by disrupting business and traffic). City police officers responded by rerouting vehicles around the blocked streets. The protesters, however, were not to be easily dissuaded. About 100 of them grabbed orange traffic cones and anti-war banners and headed toward more heavily trafficked streets.

As crowds massed in the middle of Pratt Street near Harborplace, officers drew their clubs and demanded that protesters move to the sidewalk. After several minutes of deadlock, the protesters headed west, generally keeping to the sidewalk as they pounded drums and chanted slogans like "Drop Bush, not bombs!"

Around 6 p.m., the Nose witnessed an officer--a young, tall, white male--order a protester to stay on the sidewalk. When the protester didn't immediately comply, the officer clubbed the young man in the back of his leg. Fellow protesters immediately rushed forward, pointing and chanting, "Shame! Shame! Shame!" (The Nose walked alongside the officer, requesting his name and badge number, but was ignored.)

Both the police and the protesters became more sedate thereafter. One conservatively dressed man quietly conversed with officers about how increased military spending might impact domestic services such as police funding. Others asked officers why clubs were drawn, and why the march merited so many dozens of armed escorts. Most officers rebuffed the interactions, but some answered, "Because we care about you," or, "For your protection." As the march returned to War Memorial Plaza, an unidentified man walking with the police took pictures of protest participants.

Police spokesman Troy Harris described Thursday's protests as peaceful and noted that no arrests were made. Harris indicated that "nothing came through this office" regarding any use of force by officers during Thursday's protest.

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