It was an action packed protest. Gates slammed in protestors’ faces, the arrival of five police officers, allegations that children demonstrators were urinating in public and not a single response from the target – WBAL-TV.
Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development or BUILD organization’s July 28 protest against the media’s coverage of the mayor’s race was far from dull.
Roughly 50 pastors and young children assembled on TV Hill under the blazing heat to encourage news outlets to cover more of the mayoral candidates’ positions on youth and education. “We’re very upset that the media is ignoring many of the issues we care about,” said BUILD co-chair Andrew Foster Connors of Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church. “All we’ve heard about is property taxes. While we know that can be improved, there are many other issues.”
He says the property taxes issue has “ignored a deeper conversation about our city.
“We need $2.8 billion for school reconstruction, we need our children to have summer employment, rec centers and after school programs and the city has focused resources on downtown and not neighborhoods.”
He speculates property taxes became a central issue in the race because a candidate forwarded a press release about their property tax plan and a media outlet reprinted it.
“The media is letting the candidates pick what they think the public cares about. And they don’t dig deeper,” Connors said.
Donning blue shirts that read “For a Better Future…We vote Build,” the protestors marched towards the WBAL-TV station. Armed with a bullhorn, another BUILD co-chair Bishop Douglas Miles of Koinonia Baptist Church chanted “Raise Our City, Raise Our Youth.”
As the crowd approached the driveway, it seemed WBAL employees shut the gate before the crowd could enter. Undeterred, the throng waited until a vehicle exited the station and opening the gate, and they headed to the station’s front door.
After several minutes of the group’s knocking on the door and chanting about the media’s lack of attention to issues concerning city youth, five police cars pulled up to the scene, forcing the demonstration to end.
“Classy move,” said one pastor, while one child questioned if he were going to jail. According to a BUILD member, an officer said WBAL called 911 alleging the children protesting were urinating in their yard.
Offended, Miles called and left a voice message for Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld to stress that the children had not engaged in any indecent public acts.
Mayoral hopeful Otis Rolley arrived just prior to the protests’ end. “When I heard about this, I had to come because the public hasn’t heard about the issues,” he said. “I feel like the more attention I bring to the issues, I believe I will be victorious because no one else is talking about this. It isn’t just about property tax that’s why my property tax plan came after the reforming government and reforming schools,” he said.
One of the protestors, the Rev. Dellyne Hinton, pastor of Sharp Street Memorial UMC, said the mayor’s race isn’t catching the attention of residents. “People aren’t interested in this race. We need to do something about enthusiasm to get people to come out and vote,” she said. “Only 51 percent of residents in the city are property owners … but children affect the entire city.”
She said the next mayor must be dedicated to the issue. “It’s a shame we have to close schools because there is no air conditioning.”
BUILD leaders took to city hall with the same message July 5 and vow to demonstrate in front of other media outlets in the near future.