Baltimore — Two representatives of the Baltimore Peoples Assembly, the Rev. Cortly “CD” Witherspoon of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Sharon Black, an organizer for the All Peoples Congress, have refused a plea deal to do 10 hours of community service. The two activists were arrested for trespass on Aug. 6 at the Unity March to Stop Police Terror and for Jobs and Recreation Centers. Their trial is now set for Oct. 4.
Witherspoon and Black marched with about 100 other people at the Aug. 6 march from East Baltimore to City Hall. Participants included victims and families of police abuse and killings, community activists advocating for jobs and recreation centers, and other groups, including the Occupy movement.
At City Hall, the two activists, acting on behalf of the Baltimore Peoples Assembly, entered the building to present Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake a letter outlining what was voted on by the 142 representatives who attended the June 30 Peoples Assembly. The letter detailed a call for community control of police; the firing and adequate charging of police who have shot, killed or brutalized community members; and other key issues, including providing jobs and keeping recreation centers and fire stations open.
Black and Witherspoon requested a meeting with the mayor and asked for someone from her office to meet with them regarding these emergency issues or to agree to an expedited meeting date, considering that recreation centers were to close at the end of the week and that the problem of police terror is acute.
As a result, both organizers were charged with trespass, taken to Central Booking and jailed until they saw a court commissioner the following day. Supporters meanwhile continued to rally outside City Hall.
Both Witherspoon and Black assert that they are innocent, which is why they refused to plead guilty or to accept a plea deal. Their charging documents state that they were on the property of the mayor and City Council. Both see it as ironic since “City Hall is the property of the people.”
Black and Witherspoon’s refusal to take a plea deal was met with cheers from the group that had gathered in their support for this preliminary court appearance.