Since April 3, students and community members at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University have been protesting the university’s state-approved plans to build a private police force, as well as John Hopkins’ contracts with ICE, with a sit-in at the university’s main administration building. Last week, they locked themselves inside of the building.
In the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday morning, the Baltimore Sun reported, police raided the building and arrested several of the protesters. Five protesters were arrested for trespassing, while another two were arrested for “impeding vehicle traffic,” which organizers said was a protest against the placement of a trans woman in a police van for male-identifying arrestees.
Per Baltimore Beat news editor and cofounder Brandon Soderberg, the woman was eventually placed in the female-identifying van.
The arrests were made a day after Hopkins president Roland Daniels and provost Sunil Kumar wrote an open letter to protesters calling the occupation of the building a “violation of criminal trespass law.” In a statement following the arrests, a Johns Hopkins spokesperson made clear that the raid had come at the university’s request, and called the sit-in a “major safety risk” that “severely disrupted university services.”
In a press conference following the raid, one of the group’s organizers, Turquoise Baker, cast the protests in a different light, saying, “This is an effort to protect black, brown, queer, and marginalized people who Hopkins is actively endangering.”
The protests stemmed in part from the decision by the Democratic-controlled Maryland legislature to permit Johns Hopkins to create a 100-person private police force. “The first issue that’s addressed to us is public safety,” state Del. Cheryl Glenn of Baltimore said prior to the bill’s passage. “What people are afraid of is crime. Our crime rate is off the chains.”
In addition to protesting the private police force, Hopkins organizers pushed for an end to the school’s several contracts with ICE, which as of last year totaled over $1.6 million and were all set to expire at various points this year, according to DCist. Organizers also called for justice for people killed by police in Baltimore, including Tyrone West, who was killed by Baltimore police in 2013.