Eight African-American city leaders, who summoned the media to the front of City Hall to express concerns about Baltimore’s top corruption investigator, called off a news conference after being drowned out by strippers protesting the shutdown of adult entertainment venues.
The group, which included former Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, said they “demand equity in investigations” by Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming in the wake of her report on the travels, gifts and private businesses of State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby.
Using the letterhead of the Baltimore Chapter of the NAACP, the group said it would “call for greater clarity and accountability from the Office of the Inspector General.”
In addition to Young (who as mayor had praised Cumming for her investigative findings), the group included Rev. Kevin Slayton, publicist Robyn Murphy, NAACP Chapter President Kobi Little, attorneys Tiffani Collins, J. Wyndal Gordon and James Rhodes, and Nicole Hanson-Mundell, executive director of Out for Justice.
The event was canceled within minutes of its scheduled start after about 50 dancers and other club employees staged a boisterous protest of Covid-19 restrictions that mandate the continued closure of adult entertainment venues.
Gordon, the lone member of the group to speak publicly, explained their decision to the assembled media:
“As you can see, there’s a very important protest going on behind us that we truly support. We don’t want to compete with the message that they’re sending out today,” the lawyer continued, explaining that the press conference would be rescheduled.
While he spoke, dancers in the crowd chanted, “What are we? Strippers. What do we want? Our jobs back!”
After the press conference was canceled, Young separated from the group and headed out of sight.
Cumming had one comment when reached today at her office. “The whole thing is very surprising to me,” she said.
On Monday, she told a WYPR radio interviewer that she stood by the evidence and conclusions of her report.
The report, which Mosby herself requested to refute a Brew article about her trips and companies, found that Baltimore’s top prosecutor was out of the office for 144 workdays in 2018 and 2019, used one of her companies that earned no income to deduct federal taxes, and did not follow city policy to report her international and weekend travel to the Board of Estimates.
In particular, the issue of whether she needed board approval for travel to conferences mostly paid for by advocacy groups drew criticism from Mosby and her attorneys, who said the report contained misstatements and inaccuracies.
Asked to render an opinion on city policy by Comptroller Bill Henry, Acting City Solicitor James P. Shea said it was unclear if elected officials needed to follow the same travel approval requirements as salaried employees because the regulations were ambiguous.
Supporters have seized upon the opinion as proof that Mosby was fully vindicated after what some on social media have called a “witch hunt” and others described as unfair targeting of an accomplished Black professional.
Earlier today, her husband, City Council President Nick Mosby, took up her cause to fundraise.
In a letter to supporters titled “Vindicated,” he wrote, “Of course the Baltimore solicitor found no fault with my wife Marilyn Mosby. She has done noting illegal, nothing immoral, and nothing nefarious.”
But “her name is consistently being drug through the sand with misrepresentative headlines and attacks,” he said, asking for donations to her campaign committee to help “raise the resources she needs to fight back.”
(The Brew reported that Mosby used campaign funds to pay for lawyers in the IG investigation in apparent violation of state election law.)
“Sex work is real work”
The protesters whose demonstration derailed the NAACP’s presser said the continued closure of adult entertainment clubs – while restaurants, bars and the Horseshoe Casino have partially reopened – was unfair.
Bella Gluscevich, a 22-year-old dancer from Fantasies in Curtis Bay, said it has been hard raising a three-year-old while also going to Anne Arundel Community College.
“It’s been really rough being out of work; I lost my apartment, my car, and I haven’t been able to pay for school,” Gluscevich said.
A spokesman for the city Health Department told WBAL-TV that Baltimore is following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about how COVID-19 is transmitted.
The idea to protest for their jobs was a joint effort, according to Fantasies manager Jessica Grady.
To get people downtown, they used a school bus filled with roughly 30 workers from Fantasies to pick up others downtown. Altogether, about 50 people, including a few DJs and club managers, participated in the protest.
• Fern Shen contributed to this article.