Nine advocates for the homeless, protesting what they called the Schmoke administration's "silence" on homelessness, were arrested last night when they refused to vacate City Hall, police said.
The members of City Advocates Serving the Homeless earlier had participated in a demonstration outside City Hall and attended the City Council meeting. But they refused to leave the building when it was closed for the night.
Those arrested were Max Obuszewski, Peter Sabonis, William Green, Melanie Hepler, Lyn Romano, Kevin Nielsen, Jana Meyer, Jeff Singer and Mike Holy, police said. They were each charged with simple trespass and were being held at the Central police station pending appearances before a court commissioner.
Romano said it was because of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's "dead silence on homelessness" that CASH staged the demonstration that began outside City Hall about 5 p.m.
Clint Coleman, the mayor's press secretary, said: "The mayor would have preferred that this not have happened, but failing to obey a lawful police command subjects people to arrests."
The advocates said that each night 2,400 homeless people have shelter and that as the weather turns colder, their plight has to be addressed.
Jeff Singer, who helped found CASH last October, said the group wants the mayor to take a leadership position on homelessness, provide more emergency shelter beds and cooperate with CASH and other groups helping the homeless to battle the problem.
"There's no leadership that we've seen on the issue of homelessness," Singer said.
About 7:20 p.m., Council President Mary Pat Clarke met with the group and asked them to leave. "I don't want you to be in a fight with our government. I want you to go," she said.
"Where are we going to go?" shouted a protester.
"We don't need to begin a summit with a fight," Clarke said later, adding that she'd be willing to meet with advocates for the homeless to talk about ideas to ease the problem.
At 8 p.m., City Hall was closed for the day. "The building was
closed, and the building supervisor announced the building was closed and everyone that stayed was subject to being arrested," said Police Capt. M. J. Andrew, deputy commander of Centeral District.
At 8:53 p.m., the building supervisor warned the protesters that they would be arrested for trespassing if they did not leave the building. In reply, the 23 protesters formed a circle, held hands and sang "We Shall Overcome."
A second warning soon came from Andrews. Those who didn't want to be arrested departed, but nine stayed.
About 9:15 p.m., three paddy wagons lined the back entrance of City Hall on Guilford Avenue. Then police moved in to arrest the protesters, who went peacefully if not willingly, receiving cheers and applause from their supporters as they were placed in the paddy wagons.
Those who were unwilling were taken out on stretchers. "A stretcher was used because some of them were passive and wouldn't walk out to the wagon," Andrews said.
About 9:25 p.m., the paddy wagons pulled off.