After a turbulent weekend encounter with police attempting to clear them out of the area used by the Baltimore Farmer’s Market, homeless individuals were back today, with tents pitched along East Saratoga Street.
“They’re standing their ground,” said Christina Flowers, founder of Real Care Providers of Belvedere.
The location of nearly two dozen tents – on the grass between the sidewalk and Saratoga and on a protected portion of Gay Street under the Jones Falls Expressway – represented a retreat from the turf that brought them into conflict with the city.
On Saturday night, about a dozen people remained in the more sheltered space used by the city-sponsored market on Sundays as Baltimore Police arrived to evict them.
Some were defiant. Alonzo Coley moved his tent to the Saratoga Street roadway, poured gas around it, then entered the tent where he lit a cigarette.
When police approached him, he dashed out, clutching the gas can. Officers shot him with a Taser, tackled him and held him prone on the ground.
The Brew captured the incident on video.
Asked what happened after Coley was taken away, Baltimore Police said he was not criminally charged.
“At approximately 11:41 p.m. at East Saratoga at North Gay Street, an adult male experienced a behavioral crisis and attempted to set himself of fire,” according to BPD spokeswoman Chakia Fennoy. “Medics transported the victim to an area hospital for treatment.”
Flowers said she is scheduled to meet on November 2 with Mayor Brandon Scott about her larger concerns about homeless people’s needs for permanent housing in Baltimore.
Asked whether Scott had signed off on the city’s handling of Saturday’s confrontation, his spokeswoman, Monica Lewis, did not answer directly. Instead, she provided this response to The Brew:
“Following a week of ongoing conversations and several attempts by the Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services (MOHS) to provide shelter options to less than a dozen demonstrators, the decision was made to demobilize the encampment, clearing individuals camped out at the site of the Farmers Market. While some demonstrators did accept outreach and shelter services, others did not.
“The actions used were aligned with the city’s notification protocol ensuring that the situation was handled constitutionally and ethically” – spokesperson for Mayor Brandon Scott.
Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Harrison was in constant communication with the Baltimore City Law Department and the actions used were aligned with the city’s notification protocol ensuring that the situation was handled constitutionally and ethically by BPD.
To be clear, MOHS worked with this group for days to no avail. As a last resort, the city enacted a public safety response because the group repeatedly refused services and specialized shelter set up just for them and were becoming hostile towards city employees.
MOHS will continue to work with individuals experiencing homelessness that were a part of this group.”