Maryland’s Senate Republican Caucus Tuesday condemned actions of Baltimore City protesters who vandalized the city’s Fraternal Order of the Police Lodge over the weekend.
“While we support the First Amendment rights of all Marylanders to peacefully protest, the damage that rioters caused to the building and their desecration of the Lodge’s American flag is an unacceptable attack on every law enforcement officer in our State,” the lawmakers said in a statement. “All citizens have the right to peacefully assemble and exercise their right to free speech. But when these protected activities devolve into vandalism and lawlessness, there must be consequences.”
The city has a historically contentious relationship with its police department, which was exacerbated by civil unrest that followed the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers in late May.
The Baltimore Sun reported Sunday that a group of protesters walked from a sit-in protest in Hampden on Saturday evening to the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, where they spray-painted “Defund BPD,” among other messages on the face of the building, the phrase “Am I next?” on the street and burnt an American flag.
The sit-in was meant to be in solidarity with demonstrators in Portland, Ore., who have been confronted and apprehended by agents from the Department of Homeland Security in recent weeks. At a White House briefing last week, President Trump expressed his intent to send a similar force to other cities, including Baltimore.
Earlier this summer, Baltimore saw weeks’ worth of protest against police brutality and white supremacy that led to one of its Christopher Columbus statues being removed from its plinth and submerged in the Inner Harbor, causing a rift between state and local lawmakers and Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police President Michael Mancuso.
In a statement posted to the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police Twitter page Sunday, Mancuso called the demonstrators “anarchists” who levied an attack not just against the union’s building, but against active and retired Baltimore City police officers.
“The damage that was done has been corrected and we will continue our work to represent the rank and file members of the BPD,” Mancuso wrote. “No losers who live in their Mommy and Daddy’s basements will ever be able to deter us in our mission.”
There is “an active and ongoing investigation into this act of vandalism and destruction of property,” Baltimore City Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said in a statement posted Sunday to the department’s Facebook page about Saturday’s incident.
“While we will continue to engage with our communities to create and repair community-police relations and protect the first amendment rights of our residents, we will absolutely not tolerate acts of vandalism and will hold these offenders accountable,” Harrison said.
In his statement, Mancuso criticized Harrison, saying he “seems to have disappeared during all of this.”
“Commissioner Harrison was available, several weeks ago, to kneel in the street with these losers, but when it comes to supporting the working members of the BPD, he’s a complete no show; not even a simple phone call or text,” Mancuso said. ”Baltimore City and its Police Officers deserve better than a completely ineffective leader who disappears when required!”
Like Harrison, Senate Republicans are demanding accountability.
In their statement, they expressed disappointment in city officials who did not intervene, calling on them to join them in their condemnation of the “rioters” who they say committed “an unacceptable attack on every law enforcement officer in our State.”
“The tepid response to this incident, as well as that to the destruction of Baltimore’s Columbus statue earlier this summer, establishes a dangerous precedent,” the Republican senators wrote. “We call on the leaders of Baltimore City to condemn these actions, and to immediately detail their plan to combat the obvious criminal behavior of these rioters before this unrest escalates and spreads any further.”
“We continue to stand with all of Maryland’s law enforcement professionals who put their lives on the line every day in service to their communities and our State.”