Baltimore police arrested a well-known activist, reverend, and community figure on September 9.
Rev. Wesley West has been a strong advocate for Baltimore residents in the aftermath of Freddie Gray's murder, and has spoken out against police brutality in recent months.
Police claim that "West attempted to incite a riot" on September 2, the day of the first motion hearing for the police officers that killed Freddie Gray.
They arrested him at his church.
Police say West deliberately stepped in front of a red 2008 Ford F150 pick-up truck, placed his left hand on the hood of the truck with his other hand on his bullhorn. The driver slowed his speed to avoid hurting West, who then leaned his body into the front bumper before stepping away and starting to yell into his bullhorn. Police report that West "appeared to be agitated and his observed actions were violent and hostile in nature."[…]
West has been charged with attempting to incite a riot, malicious destruction of property, disorderly conduct, disturbance of the peace, and false imprisonment, and failure to obey.
As you can imagine, there is much more to this story down below.
These charges are truly outrageous. This is a blatant infringement on his First Amendment rights and a shameless attempt to criminally punish a community leader for protesting.
A video of the incident shows a very different story than the one police are telling. Rev. West is in the crosswalk during the video when the pick-up truck comes into the frame. The truck does not stop but continues to attempt to drive through the crosswalk, his truck literally driving into West's body. The driver does not stop, despite the fact that West stood in front of him. In the video West looks like he is being virtually run over.
No particular agitation is visible. But, even if he was agitated: Agitation is not illegal. Charging him for inciting a riot would only be valid if he were urging others to act violently. But, unsurprisingly, there is no evidence that West has ever or would ever encourage violence in his own community. In fact, he has led a series of peaceful rallies in the past.
This is a disturbing trend we're seeing in today's protests. Community leaders are being arrested for exercising the most quintessential American freedom—the right to protest. Authorities know that West isn't technically doing anything wrong, but they will do what they can to silence and stop him.
The troubling reality is that in places like Baltimore and Ferguson, people are arrested for protesting, dissenting, standing up for what they believe in, and organizing their communities.