All hell broke loose and two people were arrested at a Baltimore City Hall hearing for a proposed mandatory one-year sentence for possession of an illegal handgun—a bill that some say will continue to exacerbate the mass incarceration of young people of color.
The Baltimore Police Department says that two unidentified men, a 29-year-old and a 27-year-old, were arrested, according to WJZ-TV. They have not been officially charged. Kimberly Eiten of the CBS local affiliate provided a video of the madness, where at least one person was injured.
The meeting was already contentious, with reports of some attendees shouting that they were not being given an opportunity to speak. After repeated warnings from council members about the outbursts, the melee reportedly began when police started trying to remove people and some got pushed or fell.
Because of pressure from community and labor groups, the bill had already been changed from its original incarnation, with the City Council committee adopting an amendment that would exempt first-time offenders unless they are committing other crimes, too.
As recently reported by The Root, research has shown that young black adults are being incarcerated for longer periods, despite talk of “criminal-justice reform.”
Research also provides the most telling truth of all: The neighborhoods most affected by violence are already the most incarcerated—i.e., more jail does not necessarily mean safety.
“In a city with a Democratic mayor and a City Council that is a majority African-American elected officials, they are proposing legislation that has proven to target people of color instead of figuring out how to address systemic issues in our city,” said Ricarra Jones, at an earlier meeting on the bill.
“We all know that mandatory minimums do not work,” Jones continued. “We are still feeling the effects from zero tolerance and the war on drugs in our communities. Sending more of our people to jail does not make us safer. Providing real health services, drug treatment, affordable housing, education resources, career ladders and investing in our communities is what makes us safer.”
Seven of the 15 council members have expressed support or are co-sponsoring the bill. Five have pledged to vote against it.
Read more at WJZ-TV.