Three of the four men arrested on March 29 during a protest march for employment at East Baltimore Development Inc. appeared in Maryland District Court in Baltimore Wednesday morning for a hearing on charges including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and disturbing the peace.
Judge Gregory Sampson set a trial date of June 26 for Thomas Threatt and postponed hearings for Richie Armstrong and William Simmons until late July because an assistant state’s attorney said the Baltimore Police Department had a video of the protest and requested the delay to examine it.
Another defendant, Earl King, failed to appear in court and Judge Sampson issued a bench warrant for his arrest.
“I think it shows they are really struggling to complete this case,” Armstrong said, after the brief hearing that drew about 20 protestors to the front steps of the Eastside District Court on Harford Road.
“Once the state reviews this video, they’ll see the officers were in the wrong. We are looking for a dismissal.”
Armstrong, an organizer with Community Churches United, a grassroots organization affiliated with the Laborers’ International Union of North America, says his organization has trained more than 100 city residents for jobs at the EBDI site. He has led four protest marches at the 88-acre development since December, including the one in March.
Christopher Shea, CEO of EBDI, says Armstrong’s group has never referred any workers to EBDI.
EBDI, a nonprofit, is in charge of the $1.8 billion redevelopment of Middle East, which began in 2002 and has resulted in the relocation of 732 families and demolition or planned demolition of more than 1,000 houses and buildings.
The March protest near the construction site for a new $170 million state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene laboratory resulted in the arrests.
The protest that led to the arrests was organized by the Baltimore Redevelopment Action Coalition, a local group formed to push for employment opportunities, increased community representation and economic inclusion in the EBDI project.
Arthur M. Frank, Threatt’s attorney, said Wednesday that he had requested a jury trial for his client in Baltimore City Circuit Court. Threatt faces up to three years in prison, Frank said.
Frank said in an email Wednesday that he planned to pursue a complaint against the arresting officers on behalf of Threatt.
“I will be requesting that the state criminally charge the three officers that unlawfully assaulted Mr. Threatt,” Frank wrote. “While Mr. Threatt was laying face down and not moving at all, one officer lifted his head and sprayed mace in his face and then another officer slammed his or her knee into my client’s back.
“Then Mr. Threatt was turned around and a 3rd officer kneed him in the chest area. Each of those officers should be held accountable for their unlawful actions against Mr. Threatt. My client did absolutely nothing wrong.”
Threatt, trained as a construction worker, said he joined the protest march because he had been unemployed for 14 years.
“I came out there that day thinking that they’d help me find a construction job,” he said. “We linked arms and the police said to break it up … and that’s when they broke it up. I was proceeding to the sidewalk and that’s when they grabbed me and they said ‘you’re under arrest.’ I said, for what?”
Charges against Armstrong and Simmons are expected to be heard on July 30 in district court.
A spokesman for the Baltimore police did not return a call Wednesday seeking comment.