Chanting students ejected from meeting on private police for Johns Hopkins University

Students protesting bill to establish a private police force on the campus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore were escorted out of a hearing room by Capitol Police. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

A group of students and community activists were ejected from a hearing room in the Maryland House Office Building in Annapolis where lawmakers were voting on bills to establish a private police force on the Johns Hopkins University campus in Baltimore.

The students from Hopkins and the nearby Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, said they are frustrated that lawmakers don’t seem to be giving their position much weight.

As the Baltimore City legislative delegation met to vote on the plan to establish a private campus police force at Hopkins, the students stood, clapping and shouting and called out “No justice, no peace! No private police!”

A member of the Capitol Police escorted the students out of the hearing room and out of the building where they then pounded on the door of the building, continuing their chant for a few moments. Police told the students that they were disturbing the peace and moved them off the sidewalk in front of House Office building as they were interviewed by reporters.

Hopkins student Andrea Fraser said students want a safer campus, but she said she thinks approaches other than adding police should be considered.

Referring to lawmakers, Fraser said, “They’ve been disregarding our concerns and placing this on us when we’re all saying no — it’s against our consent,” she said of the plan to create a private campus police force.

Chris Bilal, who lives in Baltimore City and is a member of the Washington Hill Community Association near the Hopkins campus, said he thinks other approaches are needed.

“We need community-driven safety mechanisms which could include things like mediation and de-escalation” instead of a beefed-up police presence, he said.

Bilal said if Hopkins is interested in crime reduction, the university should be more involved in the community. “We’re looking for more solutions around Hopkins actually funding community-driven initiatives,” he said.

Supporters of the bills to create the campus police force say added security is needed in an area where crime is a serious problem. Among those asking Maryland legislators to vote yes on the issue: Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings who lives in Baltimore and whose nephew was killed near the campus of Old Dominion University in Virginia in 2011.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan reported from Annapolis. 

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