Longtime citizen activist Kim Trueheart was arrested today at Baltimore City Hall and charged with disorderly conduct, a Baltimore city police spokesman confirmed.
A frequent critic of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake who often confronts the mayor and top city officials online and in person – the 55-year-old
retired career Navy officer Trueheart was taken to Central Booking, according to a police spokesman. [Trueheart retired from the Naval Reserve, not the regular Navy, and as a Chief Petty Officer, which is a senior enlisted, not an officer, rank.]
According to an eyewitness who snapped pictures of the arrest, Trueheart was attempting at about 8:30 a.m. to enter City Hall, where the weekly meeting of the Board of Estimates was about to get underway.
Two officers blocked her in the front lobby, said activist Mike McGuire, who was also heading into the building to attend the board’s meeting.
Trueheart said by phone today (1/24/13) that she had, in the end, been trying to exit the building when she was physically blocked at the door by the security officers.
“She was saying, ‘I do not know what law I have broken. I have not been advised what law I am breaking,’” McGuire said, speaking by phone. McGuire said he saw the officers handcuff Trueheart.
Trueheart told The Brew last week that she had been banned from City Hall, but had not been told what law she had broken, or a means of appealing the decision to impose the ban.
City police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Trueheart had been disorderly at the Jan. 16 Board of Estimates meeting.
He said today’s incident began when Trueheart tried to enter the building. “They were patient with her and at some point she got disorderly again, and they asked her to leave and she wouldn’t and so she was arrested.”
Guglielmi said he did not know about the ban and was seeking more information about it. But in a conversation with The Brew last week, Trueheart said she had been barred from the building on Jan. 16th.
Confronted by Security Officer
Trueheart said last week’s incident took place not at the Board of Estimates room upstairs but in the City Hall Rotunda afterwards, where the mayor had been announcing details of the Martin Luther King Day parade.
Invited by the mayor’s press aide to ask general questions, reporters were asking about the issue of upgrading the city phone system when, according to Trueheart, the police officer assigned to the mayor’s security, Charmaine M. Thomas started shoving her.
“Why are you pushing me? Stop pushing me!” Trueheart recalled saying in response.
Trueheart, who says she filmed the whole exchange, said it was at that point she asked her own question of the Mayor on the subject of the phone system controversy: “Why are you wasting $400,000 a month?”
Trueheart said she was then told she was banned from City Hall and, in subsequent conversation with the police lieutenant in charge of city government building security, she was told this was a one-month ban.
Trueheart said she was told by Lt. Robert Morris that she was barred from entering City Hall until Feb. 15, at which time he would decide whether to lift the ban.
Asked why, in general, a non-violent citizen would be arrested at City Hall, Guglielmi responded this way:
“The police department has an obligation to protect City Hall, to protect the officials and people who work there and to protect the citizens from the community who come there,” he said. “They have an obligation to, in the most extreme circumstances, prevent threats to public safety and also to maintain a level of decorum.”
Other activists have had brushes with City Hall security.
In June 2011, former Senator Theatre owner Tom Kiefaber disrupted a City Council meeting. Guglielmi said Kiefaber was, for a time, banned from City Hall. Kiefaber, in an email to The Brew, said it is incorrect to characterize city policy regarding his entering City Hall after that incident as a “ban.”
Charges Dropped Against Two Other Activists
In a related development, two activists arrested this past summer while trying to deliver a letter to the mayor at City Hall had all the charges against them dropped in District Court yesterday.
Sharon Black, of the Baltimore People’s Assembly, and Rev. Cortly “C.D.” Witherspoon, of the Baltimore chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, had been charged with trespassing.
As part of an Aug. 6 demonstration outside the building, the two had come to talk to Rawlings-Blake about the closure of recreation centers and fire companies, police brutality and other issues. They were escorted from the building in handcuffs and later rejected an offer to plead guilty in return for performing community service.
Yesterday in District Court on Patapsco Avenue, after the state’s presentation of evidence against Black and Witherspoon, the defendants’ motion for acquittal was granted.
“We were there for lawful business like any citizen. They couldn’t prove otherwise,” Black said, by phone today. “We are elated that this was the resolution of the case.”
– Reporter Mark Reutter also contributed to this story