Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Four arrested in protest at EBDI

Four protestors were arrested Thursday during a protest march for jobs near the 88-acre East Baltimore Development Inc. site following a clash with Baltimore police.

Carrying signs and chanting, “Our community, our jobs” and “If we don’t work, nobody works,” about 200 protestors marched on Johns Hopkins Hospital and then moved near construction of the $184 million Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene lab near Broadway and Eager Street.

One of those arrested was Richie Armstrong, an organizer with Community Churches United, a grassroots organization affiliated with the Laborers’ International Union of North America, which says it has trained more than 100 local residents for jobs at the EBDI site.

Armstrong said Thursday morning that none of the trainees has been hired by EBDI or by any contractors working on the $1.8 billion project.

But Christopher Shea, CEO of EBDI, said Armstrong has not followed through on his promise to refer prospective workers to EBDI.

“In January, we told Mr. Armstrong that we will work with any organization that can deliver ready, willing and able workers to EBDI for referral to the constructions sites,” Shea said in an emailed statement.

“Since then, Mr. Armstrong has staged two protests and attended some meetings when media was present, but he has not referred a single person to our workforce program.

“In contrast,” Shea added, “a partnership of nonprofits, businesses and government agencies has placed more than 2,000 people in jobs — about 30 percent from East Baltimore — starting long before Mr. Armstrong arrived here from leading protests in Washington a few months ago.”

In 2002 when EBDI was formed as a nonprofit by then-Mayor Martin O’Malley, the group’s board projected up to 6,500 permanent jobs at the site.

EBDI received federal money for the project in its early years based on the premise that a biotech park with up to five buildings would create 1,750 jobs.

Thursday’s protest, the third since early December, was organized by the Baltimore Redevelopment Action Coalition, a grassroots group that is pushing for employment opportunities and increased community representation and economic inclusion in the EBDI project.

At one point, protestors formed a human chain and blocked a dump truck leaving the DHMH lab site. City police responded by making arrests.

“This is ridiculous. We just want our jobs,” said Desa Whitley, 45, a protestor who said she was an unemployed East Baltimore resident.

One protestor, who identified himself as Thomas Street, was subdued on Eager Street by five officers and pepper sprayed.

“You see this? For a job,” Whitley said, as Street was hauled to a waiting police van in handcuffs.

Anthony Guglielmi, spokesman for the city police department, said the four protestors were arrested for blocking the free flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic, a misdemeanor offense.

About 10 Hopkins graduate students joined the protestors, organizers said.

One of the graduate students, Ritika Goel, said she joined the protest to help “support the East Baltimore community in demanding justice.”

Citing EBDI’s relocation of 732 households from the Middle East community to make way for the redevelopment, Goel, a family physician and master’s candidate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said a malaise has settled over the neighborhood.

“Displacement and unemployment are bad for your health, so the community should be treated with dignity,” she said.