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The Rev. Dr. Heber Brown addresses demonstrators from the Thurgood Marshall Memorial during Jan. 15th march on Annapolis. (AFROPhoto by R. Alejandro)

Demonstrators packed the first hearing of the House of Delegates’ Judiciary Committee, a show of community strength and resolve to see law enforcement reforms passed during the 2015 legislative session in Annapolis. Organizers estimate that between 150 and 175 people came out for the march, which was marked by a heavy youth presence.

The event began at the Thurgood Marshall Memorial in Annapolis, where the Rev. Dr. Heber Brown, of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in Baltimore, addressed the crowd. Brown co-organized the march with Farajii Muhammad, of Young Leaders for Peace.

“They thought that after a few marches, a few rallies, they thought that we would just calm down again, get back to ‘Scandal,’ get back to ‘How to Get Away with Murder,’” said Brown to those gathered at the Memorial. “But we’re here today because we’re tired of other people getting away with murder. We’re tired of the scandal in our community where Black and Brown people are being brutalized and terrorized by those who are abusing the powers afforded them.”

Tre Murphy, a youth leader with Baltimore Bloc, spoke pointedly about the need for established Black institutions to stand with youth in their fight against police brutality, invoking the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at a march that took place on King’s birthday (Jan. 15).

Demonstrators pack the House Judiciary Committee’s first hearing of the 2015 legislative session. (AFROPhoto by R. Alejandro)

“I can’t help but to think that MLK would not appreciate the silence of the Black church that has not taken a stance on these issues,” said Murphy, who also spoke out against the resistance of politicians and law enforcement officials to reform. “I can’t help but to wonder and think that MLK would not appreciate that politicians and law enforcement, whose job is to protect and serve our communities, care more about protecting killer cops than they do about persons lost at their hands.”

The march then moved from the monument to the offices of the House of Delegates, where the House’s Judiciary Committee was having their first meeting of the legislative session, a rather informal gathering that consisted solely of introductions from committee members. Demonstrators filled the room, a show of strength and resolve that seemed to take many legislators by surprise.

Some demonstrators in attendance expressed frustration that they did not have a chance to give any actual testimony to the legislators, while organizers explained that the day’s march was just a first step, and that there would be other opportunities to testify over the course of the session.

At one point, Ricardo Flores, government relations director for the Maryland Office of the Public Defender who was attending the hearing, stood up to address the demonstrators as they discussed opportunities to testify.

“You all have already had an enormous impact,” Flores told the large group present. “In all the years that I’ve been down here, there are very few groups that have been organized enough to come down to Annapolis in the first days of the first session to express, as clearly as you all have, a particular agenda. . . . To fill this room–that’s a big deal.”

ralejandro@afro.com