A Community Comes Together to Celebrate Baltimore, Clean Up Debris, and Test the Curfew
Theresa Keil and Larry Cohen are TLC Baltimore, a team of Baltimore-based photojournalists who capture all sorts of events, usually art openings and performances, street festivals and nightlife. After photographing peaceful protests for Freddie Gray on Saturday, April 26 in Baltimore, they trained their lenses on the city-wide cleanup effort and protests happening on Tuesday, April 28.
According to Keil, the day was mostly calm, but she did witness individuals antagonizing one another as well. She got a first taste of pepper spray after someone threw a bottle at the line of officers and was almost knocked down by a nearby altercation between a police officer and an individual, but overall, positive events dominated.
The most impressive thing she witnessed was a line of civilians standing parallel to the police line, keeping the peace for most of the day. “The people that formed the line effectively kept those away who wanted trouble. They were people from the neighborhood, people from all over, and all different ages and races. For a while the group ‘300 Men March’ stood and kept things under control, but all day individuals were assisting in calming people down. It was pretty awesome,” said Keil.
While she could have benefitted from a gas mask, Keil said, “The end of the night was actually well orchestrated and effective.” According to the photographer, “The police and the community leaders were very clear that the curfew would be enforced and much of the crowd was very clear that they had no intention of leaving. The police warned everyone when they were about to advance their line, moved up a bit and stopped, then started flinging the pepper spray canisters, moving up the line.”
“People were throwing plastic water bottles and glass at the police the entire time, but they never left the line,” she said. “They didn’t need to, the spray was impossible to withstand, and soon the entire block was engulfed in the smoke. Without a mask it was hard to breathe, eyes were watering, and it burned. And then, pretty much everyone left.”
After a day documenting a mixture of reactions and events, Keil said, “I’m glad we were there and glad to see a mostly positive day. So many people came out and helped with clean-up efforts, provided musical entertainment, sang, roller-skate danced, preached, and handed out food, water, and popsicles. The 12 o’clock boys rode up and down North Ave and provided an amazing show. In many ways, today was more like a street festival that a protest, except that there were cops in riot gear and tanks in the background.”
“We are glad to be here, showing the world the good side of things and not this media circus that everyone wants to believe, and so grateful that we are able to contribute in some way as ambassadors for our beloved Baltimore.”
Photos by TLC Baltimore: Theresa Keil and Larry Cohen.
Author Cara Ober is Editor at BmoreArt.