Morgan Malachi, one of hundreds of activists facing charges for having protested the Baltimore police killing of Freddie Grey, won an innocent verdict on July 23 in front of three dozen supporters from the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly and the Philadelphia Coalition for Racial, Economic and Legal Justice.
Malachi was part of the “Philly Is Baltimore” contingent during an April 25 mass uprising in Baltimore against police brutality. She was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and refusal to obey a lawful order. City officials later called in the National Guard and state troopers to enforce a curfew as they tried to crush the justified people’s rebellion by arresting scores of youth.
Since then, officials have been conducting a witch hunt against the protesters, increasing the number of charges against many arrestees. Aljebu-Lan (Key) Marcus, a Philly REAL Justice Coalition activist from the Trayvon Martin Organizing Committee, has had charges of resisting arrest and interfering with an arrest added to charges of disorderly conduct and failure to obey a lawful order.
All this was for protesting racist police killings, which are all too common not just in Baltimore but also in Philadelphia, New York, Oakland, Ferguson, Cleveland and many more U.S. cities. Marcus’ trial is scheduled to take place in Baltimore on Aug. 10 at 8:30 a.m. at Hargrove District Court, 700 East Patapsco Ave. Supporters are encouraged to call or email Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s office to demand that all charges be dropped: 443-984-6000, [email protected].
Baltimore is not alone. Many arrests have taken place in Philadelphia, too, including that of the Mayfair 10, for protesting the police refusal to release the names of the cops who killed Brandon Tate Brown. Another five were arrested at a peaceful #SayHerName vigil when cops rioted, breaking the wrist of a 62-year-old woman.
Hundreds of arrests have taken place wherever outraged youth have protested the killings of Sandra Bland, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Rekia Boyd, and many more — over 600 Black and Brown men, women, transgender people and even children killed by cops in 2015 so far. The arrests appear to be part of a campaign of repression being coordinated from the ruling circles of capitalist society against the Black Lives Matter movement.
Right to rebel put on trial
Malachi’s trial was preceded by plea bargain proceedings for another young Black protester, Terry Smith, 26. He has a five-year-old child and his partner is expecting with another child. He was sentenced to 60 days in prison for his part in the uprising against police terror.
During Malachi’s trial, prosecutor Andrew Costinett relied on the testimony of four SWAT team cops. He also exhibited portions of three videotapes in a failed effort to prove that the young Black woman had refused to obey orders to disperse or was disorderly.
The videos showed Malachi using a bullhorn. Baltimore City District Court Judge Flynn M. Owens eventually agreed with Malachi’s attorney, Steve Beatty, that using her First Amendment rights was legal. The judge dropped the disorderly conduct charge.
Beatty further argued that the prosecution’s own tapes from their Foxtrot helicopter revealed that Malachi had been in the intersection facing off against a line of police at 7:18 p.m., but was on the sidewalk when she was arrested at 7:40. The officer on the copter testified that he broadcast: “You must disperse. You cannot block the intersection or you will be subject to arrest,” three times between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Two defense witnesses swore they did not hear the police orders to disperse, perhaps because of the overwhelming noise of chanting, yelling and bullhorns in the chaotic scene.
At the end of the proceedings, while Judge Owens praised the police “for their thankless job,” he had to admit that no testimony proved the order to disperse was broadcast between 7:18 p.m. and 7:40 p.m. so there was reasonable doubt. Therefore, he could not find the defendant guilty.
Outside the courtroom, Beatty told reporters this was a victory “for the right to free expression at a time when courts are trying to limit those rights.”
Photo: Supporters outside courthouse after ‘not guilty’ verdict.