From stadium to school halls, protests disrupt business-as-usual

May 02, 1992|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,Staff Writer Staff writers John Rivera, Eileen Canzian, Meredith Schlow and Bruce Reid contributed to this article.

About 50 students protesting the Rodney King verdict briefly blocked an entrance to Oriole Park at Camden Yards yesterday, threatening to mar an otherwise peaceful day of protests by students throughout the area.

The students sat down on the concrete and linked arms, blocking the Eutaw Street entrance between the stadium and the B&O Warehouse for about five minutes shortly after 5:30 p.m. Workers had just opened the gates for last night's Orioles game.

Fans could not get around the protesters. Tension rose as police officers approached the group, but Tyrone Forest, a student at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, pleaded with officers not to arrest them.

Then Mr. Forest persuaded the students to leave. "This is not a goodidea," he said. "This is the pride of Baltimore here."

The students marched off after the most vocal protesters shook hands with the officer in charge, Lt. Phillip Farace.

"They had a point to make," Lieutenant Farace said. "They made it and left."

The students had rallied earlier on the island between the courthouses on Calvert Street and in front of City Hall.

About 200 students from the Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, Coppin State College, Loyola College and the University of Maryland Baltimore County had expressed their outrage at injustice and racism.

A few students threatened to disrupt the rallies, but the vast majority stressed peaceful protest.

Kobi Little, a member of the Black Student Union at Hopkins, said the 120 students who walked downtown from the Hopkins campus had two reasons for marching: to protest "the injustice of our judicial system" and to decry the violence that erupted in the wake of the verdict.

"In a way, it's a good thing this happened," Mr. Little said of the King incident. "Otherwise the majority of Americans wouldn't know what happens every day."

Earlier in the day, about 100 University of Maryland graduate students gathered outside the law school in Baltimore and marched to the courthouse, where they noisily denounced the California verdict with chants and speeches.

The clamor interrupted several trials.

"We are very angry at what happened, and we just decided that we had to do something," said Damon Freeman, 23, one of the black law students who organized the event.

"Some of us are really questioning our role as law students, pursuing a profession in a system that could allow something like this to happen," Mr. Freeman said. "We are wondering, 'Is this something we want to be a part of?' "

At Towson State University, about 500 students staged a peaceful demonstration, holding signs that read, "There's no justice in AmeriKKKa if you're black," "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" and "Peace Officers."

About 300 students at Randallstown High School also held an orderly protest, saying they wanted to counter any potential disturbances.

Shortly before classes began, students held a sit-in in the school's lobby. When it became apparent that the students were not going to class, Principal Jerry D. Knotts moved the group into the auditorium for an impromptu assembly.

Students said the sit-in and the discussion came in response to a disturbance Thursday in which a white student was roughed up by several black students. Members of Students Against Racism said the scuffle was related to the King verdict, although Mr. Knotts said he was not sure the incidents could be linked. The white student was not injured.

Pep rally canceled

The sponsors of today's Mondawmin Mall pep rally for the annual AIDS Walkathon have canceled the event -- and its music, games and education booths -- to protect the youngsters they hope to recruit for the May 31 fund-raising walk.

"Baltimore has responded very appropriately thus far to an issue that needs to be addressed. We want that to continue," said Marcellus Alexander, vice president of WJZ-TV, one of the walkathon's sponsors.

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