Ten placard-carrying members of the National People's Democratic Uhuru (Freedom) Movement held their regular Wednesday protest yesterday outside the Clarence Mitchell Jr. Courthouse. The demonstrations began a couple of months ago, and group leader Anditu Siwatu, says they will continue "for as long as it takes."
"We're going to keep on doing it until we're satisfied," said Ms. Siwatu. "We want to stop the legal lynching of Africans and to defend the democratic rights of the African community and to expose the attacks on Africans by the police."
As Ms. Siwatu spoke, a protester walked by carrying a placard that read, "We Need The Police Like We Need AIDS."
The organization has about 20 members locally and nearly 250 nationally, the protesters said. They regularly demonstrate outside the courthouse, at Calvert and Lexington streets; at the Baltimore Detention Center; and at the Eastside District Court building at 1400 E. North Ave.
The group's literature says: "There is a government war and conspiracy going on against the Black community of Baltimore. It is called 'the WAR ON DRUGS.' Eighty percent of the drugs in the United States and Baltimore are in the White community, but 80 percent of the people arrested for drugs are in the Black community. . . ."
Ms. Siwatu, a native of Baltimore, said the Wednesday protests are held outside the courthouse to "expose what's going on" inside: "How people are not being represented right" by "lawyers walking around here in three-piece suits, taking people's money and not defending them."
Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan, administrative judge for the city Circuit Court, said that he disagrees with the protesters but that they have not been unruly or too noisy. The judge said he supported the group's right to protest.
"As long as they don't disturb the operation, they're free to say what they want," Judge Kaplan said.
Jabbar Caliph, one of the protesters, said that prison sentences imposed on blacks are generally longer than are sentences for whites convicted of the same crimes.
"In 22 years you haven't seen any change. The laws are especially designed for blacks," Mr. Caliph said.