Four Muslims were arrested yesterday after they chased and allegedly attacked a man they said had ignored repeated warnings about selling drugs near their mosque in Northwest Baltimore, city police said.
"It got ugly. The police came flying in here at 90 miles an hour. There must have been 50 police cars and helicopters flying overhead," said Amiyr Muhammad, who serves as community officer for the religious group. "Whenever they hear Muslims, that's how they respond. When it comes to us, they don't care."
Mr. Muhammad said the police allowed the alleged drug peddler to escape, concentrating instead on chasing the four Muslims, who ranged in age from 14 to 38.
Agent Arlene K. Jenkins, a city police spokeswoman, said the four were arrested when two officers were shoved and pushed during a brief confrontation.
Agent Jenkins acknowledged that it did appear that the Muslims had been chasing an alleged drug dealer.
Agent Jenkins said city police have good rapport with Muslim groups and are aware of their anti-drug efforts.
However, she said, officers will support them and others "only as long as citizens remain within the legal boundaries."
"We welcome all assistance," she added.
The incident occurred about 2:15 p.m. when Northwestern District Officer Eric N. Thess, inside a business in the 3300 block of Ayrdale Avenue, was told that people were beating a man with sticks.
Police said that when Officer Thess and Officer Donna G. Gleason attempted to halt the disturbance, they were pushed and shoved.
Mr. Muhammad complained that Officer Thess has not gotten along with the Muslims since being placed in the neighborhood as a foot officer.
"Most officers know us and talk to us. But that officer doesn't like us. I don't want to say it's racial, but it's definitely personal with him," he said.
Mr. Muhammad said that when his religious sect -- which he identified as Nubian Islamic Hebrews -- moved to the 3800 block of West Forest Park Avenue about four years ago, crime in the area was so bad that people were afraid to walk down the street.
Because of the sect's anti-drug approach, he said, the section has remained relatively clean of criminal activity and now "everybody is thanking us for cleaning up the drugs."
Yesterday's incident began when a man who had been warned on several occasions to move his drug dealing elsewhere showed up at a garage across from the mosque and refused to leave, the Muslim spokesman said.
"I told him, 'Take your drugs and yourself out of here. There's not going to be any drug dealing on this lot,' " Mr. Muhammad said.
The man left but returned a short time later and challenged the group again, he said.
Four of the Muslims chased the man and picked up several broomsticks along the way.
"We're not vigilantes. We don't go out looking for trouble. We tried to talk peaceably," Mr. Muhammad said.
Charged with assault were David Richardson, 20; Terry Dowell, 24; Abdullah Muhammad Kaaba, 38; and a 14-year-old, all of whom listed the mosque as their home address.
Mr. Muhammad said the Muslim group plans to meet with the police and community leaders in September for a further discussion of drug and other crime problems in Northwest Baltimore.
"We don't believe in drinking, drugs or violence. We are located in most of the major cities. Most cities appreciate us being there," he said.