More than 9,000 people packed the Fifth Regiment Armory last night to hear Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan talk of religion, the universe and husband-wife relationships.
But mostly, he talked of black empowerment.
"We live under a modern Pharaoh. We are living under a modern Pharaoh more powerful than any enemy," he said, referring to white leaders. "These enemies are so skilled, they don't have to shoot you today."
The appearance of Mr. Farrakhan, the fiery, charismatic and often controversial leader of the Nation of Islam, was sponsored by the Muhammad Mosque #6 on Garrison Boulevard in Northwest Baltimore.
Mr. Farrakhan arrived at the armory amid heavy security about 8:30 p.m. The program was scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.
Dressed in a stylish gray suit, he received several standing ovations from the predominantly black crowd. Only a few white people were in the audience.
Using no notes, but using many body gestures and raising and lowering his voice often, Mr. Farrakhan dismissed President Bush and those vying for the presidency. "It doesn't matter who is in there," he said.
He said many of the country's blacks have been too influenced by whites. "They're pussycat leaders meowing all over the place. These white people give them a little catnip, and they roll over."
Congregations of local and out-of-state churches attended Mr. Farrakhan's speech. Several dozen members of Bethel AME Church in West Baltimore attended. Mr. Farrakhan acknowledged Bethel pastor Rev. Frank Reid as a "giant. He is a man in whom God is present," he said.
Throughout the armory, there appeared to be no protesters against Mr. Farrakhan, as there have been during some of his other Baltimore-area appearances.
When he spoke at the University of Maryland at College Park three years ago, Jewish students picketed to protest remarks attributed to Mr. Farrakhan that they felt were anti-Semitic.
When he spoke at Morgan State University two years earlier, problems arose because the auditorium where he spoke had been oversold.
Although no incidents were reported at last night's event, Mr. Farrakhan's visit was not without controversy.
One local radio station, WERQ-FM, refused to air advertisements for Mr. Farrakhan's "controversial and potentially offensive" message to its listeners, according to Minister Jamil Muhammad.
The armory was under heavy security. Men and women were searched by Mr. Farrakhan's security personnel at separate entrances and both inside and outside, the armory was patrolled by Muslims.
City police officers also were present, but in no greater numbers than for any event at the armory.