June 30, 2019
Baltimore MD - On April 3, 2019, students at Johns Hopkins University, a prestigious school in inner city Baltimore, Maryland, began a sit in at Garland Hall: the main administration building for the school. Students began occupying this space in order to protest the potential institution of a private police force, and to end the relationship between Hopkins and Immigrants and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The idea of a Johns Hopkins Police Department (JHPD) came about in the form of the Community Safety and Strengthening Act (SB 793). This act was brought before the City Council and approved in early April, just before the protests began. The first demand of the three being pushed by student protestors is the destruction of SB 793. The bill essentially permits Ron Daniels, president of Hopkins, to form a Johns Hopkins Private Police Department. However, it does not account for how this private police force will be kept in check.
This sparked outrage in the John Hopkins student body due to the history of racially-motivated private police brutality in Baltimore. In 2013, community member Tyrone West was beaten to death by Morgan State University’s Private Police Force during a presumably racially-influenced traffic stop.
When Daniels sent out the initial email, informing the student body that he planned on moving forward with the institution of a JHPD, he cited Morgan State police force as a potential model. Protestors found this detail threatening to the safety of African American students and other minorities in the community.
Celeste, a sophomore organizer and protestor, said in an interview filmed by Rachel Fink: “There's really no accountability… the accountability board that they have set up is made up of 13 members that Hopkins can choose, which is really sus.” The second demand is for John Hopkins to make a statement acknowledging the harm the private police force has caused the African American community.
The third and final demand of student protestors was that Hopkins ends its connections to ICE. Starting in 2009, Johns Hopkins University has had a profitable relationship with ICE, consisting of contracts worth millions in the name of “education and training programs” that align with ICE’s mission and goals. These programs include medical education and leadership training. They’re meant to teach students how to be responsible leaders, though many immigrants on campus find ICE’s presence threatening.
“Hopkins sent out and email last year saying that it stands with DACA and immigrant students despite [the Trump] administration… however having contracts with ICE who brutalizes immigrants on a daily basis… sends a very clear message to immigrants on this campus… that Hopkins does not stand with them,” says an unnamed protestor in an interview.
The sit ins to achieve these three demands received massive media coverage on a local and national scale until May 8, 2019, when Ron Daniels ended the occupation of Garland Hall by calling the police and fire department on student protestors.
Student protesters laid down in front of police vehicles in order to stall officers. (Jerry Jackson / Baltimore Sun)
He cited his breaking point, stating that he could no longer support the protests due to the students decisions to place chains on the doors of Garland Hall and block all of the exits on the night of May 7. Early on the morning of May 8, Daniels enlisted the help of BCFD and BPD to cut the chains off of the doors and arrest five students who refused to exit Garland Hall peacefully. They also ended up arresting two more students who attempted to stall police officers by laying down in front of their vehicles.
JHPD is set to take effect on July 1, and locals and students alike are waiting with bated breath to see what will happen to the community once it does.
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