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Organizers arrived at 600 East Monument this morning to set up for breakfast–carting pots of coffee, and the makings of some really excellent oatmeal–to find a strong presence from the Baltimore City Police Department, and the State Police. After taking video of four organizers unloading cars and creating a makeshift lean-to from a tarp tied between two trees to provide shelter from the rain, a group of officers approached the organizers and insisted that they were “not allowed to be there,” despite having been told yesterday by the Department of Public Safety that it was understood that a full program of events was planned for the site, and that as long as those events were not actually inside the fence around the youth jail site, there would not be any problems.

Officers refused to allow the organizers to serve food or have any sort of shelter against the rain, and threatened arrest. Though we stalled as long as possible, we were outnumbered 4-1, and we were forced to leave the site or take arrest.

We WILL continue with the program of scheduled events every evening this week! Tonight, meet at the site at 6PM for a delicious dinner and a teach-in on youth and the prison-industrial complex with members of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle. Call City Hall during the day today and implore the mayor’s office to allow the events to go on, and ask that organizers be able to provide shelter from the rain! Here are the relevant numbers:

Mayor’s number 410 396 4900
Carl Stokes (council member for that area) 410 396 5550

Be sure to tell Carl Stokes that we would love to see him down at the site any evening this week!

Press Advisory: For Immediate Release
For media queries, please contact the Schools Not Jails Media Team: (410) 849-9626 | schoolsnotjails@gmail.com

JANUARY 17: SCHOOLS NOT JAILS ORGANIZERS WILL RETURN TO SITE, DESPITE ARRESTS

Organizers of today’s Schools Not Jails Occupation kickoff rally and action say that they have no plans to cancel the program of events planned to take place at the proposed site of the juvenile detention center in East Baltimore this week, despite arrests and an aggressive police presence earlier today. Tuesday’s program of events begins with breakfast at the site at 8AM, and ends with a 6PM dinner and a teach-in on Youth and the Prison Industrial Complex with Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle at 7PM. All are invited to attend.

The Schools Not Jails Occupation, in collaboration with Occupy Baltimore and the Baltimore Algebra Project, is a five-day action designed to call into question the budgeting priorities of the State of Maryland and the City of Baltimore by highlighting the unnecessary allocation of $100 million in state funds for the construction of a 180-bed youth detention facility–an amount that would cover the annual budget shortfall that threatens to close or privatize the Baltimore City Recreation Centers for 333 years.

Earlier on January 16, after a boisterous rally at the corner of Fallsway and Madison, in front of Central Booking, over 150 people marched to 600 E. Monument, where six organizers entered the enclosure and proceeded to erect a large wooden schoolhouse on the proposed site of the youth jail, and a Baltimore City high school teacher gave a lesson on Frederick Douglass. Earlier in the day, Wendell France, Commissioner of Pretrial Detention & Services at the Maryland Department of Public Safety, had told organizers that they would not be allowed onto the site of the proposed youth jail, stating safety concerns, but said that the State of Maryland’s jurisdiction ended there, and stated that he had no problem with protestors on the sidewalk outside of the site’s chain-link boundary. Baltimore City Police, however, did seem to have a problem with the Occupation’s use of the sidewalk, and brought dozens of police officers in full riot gear to create a barrier between activists and their military tent, erected on the sidewalk to provide shelter for those planning to remain at the site through the night. Police forced members of the press to leave the site, and then tore down the tent, which was taken away in a city sanitation truck. State Police then proceeded to tear down the schoolhouse that had been constructed inside the chain-link fence around the youth jail site.

Organizers say that, despite the six arrests and the loss of the tent, the first day of the action achieved their ultimate goal: calling attention to the planned construction of the youth jail, and demonstrating to the city and state governments that the residents of Baltimore City have different priorities for public spending and want to have a say in how public funds are dispersed. Organizers plan to spend the week discussing alternatives to the problems in Baltimore that the jail is intended to address, and bring proposals to the mayor’s participatory budget hearing at Cylburn Arboretum on January 21.

Video of the day’s events, as well as images, may be found at the Schools Not Jails website shortly: https://schoolsnotjails.wordpress.com | For specific photo requests, especially from the period when press were blocked from the site, please email schoolsnotjails@gmail.com.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact the Schools Not Jails Media Team: (410) 849-9626 | schoolsnotjails@gmail.com

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Rally at Central Booking, 300 E Madison

With:

Lester Spence (JHU)

Maryland Shaw (Baltimore Algebra Project)

John Duda (Another BDC Is Possible)

Nicole Cheatom (Baltimore Algebra Project)

Iris Kirsch (Occupy Baltimore & Baltimore City Schools)

and more!

Bring signs, noisemakers, and all of your friends & coworkers to rally in support of this week-long action! At 4PM, we will march to the proposed site of the juvenile detention center (600 E. Monument) where we will begin setting up the encampment. All are welcome to join us!

Press Advisory: For Immediate Release

For media queries, please contact the Schools Not Jails Media Team: schoolsnotjails@gmail.com

JANUARY 16: OCCUPY FOR SCHOOLS NOT JAILS LAUNCHES A FIVE-DAY ENCAMPMENT AT THE SITE OF THE PROPOSED YOUTH JAIL FACILITY IN EAST BALTIMORE

On January 16, in honor of Martin Luther King Day and the call for a nationwide Occupy the Dream day of action, the Schools Not Jails working group will launch a five-day occupation of the proposed site of the juvenile detention center at 600 East Monument Street in East Baltimore. Developed in collaboration with Occupy Baltimore and the Baltimore Algebra Project, this time-delimited, non-violent action is intended to bring the energy of the international Occupy movement to bear on a pressing local issue: the budgeting priorities of the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland, and the decision to allocate $100 million in state funds to the construction of the 180-bed facility, while the city of Baltimore struggles to balance the budget and cuts funding for education and youth-oriented resources, like the Baltimore City Recreation Centers, which are slowly being privatized or closed as public funds are withdrawn.

The Schools Not Jails Occupation will begin with a public rally at 3PM on Monday, January 16 in front of Central Booking (300 E. Madison Street, at the corner of Fallsway and Madison). Speakers include Lester Spence (Johns Hopkins University) and Maryland Shaw (Baltimore Algebra Project), as well as organizers from Occupy Baltimore and other Baltimore-based organizing initiatives. The rally will conclude with a march to the proposed site of the youth jail (600 E. Monument), where organizers say they will build a temporary encampment, and remain until the morning of Saturday, January 21. Meals are being provided by a host of local businesses, including Two Boots Pizza and Joe Squared, as well as teams of volunteers, and a full program of events will take place throughout the week, highlighting topics that range from the current state of public education in Baltimore to models for participatory budgeting and development. A full calendar of events may be found at: https://schoolsnotjails.wordpress.com/

Organizers of the Schools Not Jails Occupation say they hope that the action will raise awareness around the already existing Stop the Youth Jail Alliance (http://stopbaltimoreyouthjail.com/) and place public pressure on city and state lawmakers to question the efficacy of the proposed detention center. In 2011, the State Department of Public Safety and Corrections joined with OSI-Baltimore and the Annie E. Casey Foundation to commission the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (one of the nation’s oldest nonprofit criminal justice research organizations, based in Oakland, California) to re-evaluate the state’s need for the jail. At minimum, the researchers determined, the proposed jail could be greatly downsized, and with basic policy changes, simply not needed. Organizers say that calling into question the social, political, and economic priorities implicit in the construction of the youth jail is a specific goal of the Schools Not Jails Occupation. A full statement on goals and strategies for the action may be found at https://schoolsnotjails.wordpress.com/goals-strategies/.

Organizers say that the encampment is open to anyone willing to act with openness and respect. While a core group of individuals have committed to keeping a 24-hour presence at the site throughout the week, organizers hope the encampment will grow over the course of the five days, and encourage the participation of all residents of the city of Baltimore at the workshops and teach-ins throughout the week.

For more information, or to schedule an interview, please contact the Schools Not Jails Media Team: schoolsnotjails@gmail.com, or visit the Schools Not Jails website at https://schoolsnotjails.wordpress.com.

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