A long-standing and much-loved celebration that typically draws hundreds of people – that’s how City Councilwoman Phylicia Porter describes the “Brooklyn Day” block party in her South Baltimore district that erupted into lethal gunfire early Sunday morning.
“It’s a reunion with people who are at Brooklyn Homes now or grew up there, returning to get together every summer,” Porter said today. “We see these type of events all over the city – Park Heights, Westport, Mt. Winans.”
So how did a big party, held at the public housing complex every summer for the last 27 years with police officers always on hand, wind up with no law enforcement presence this year?
Many individuals and public entities, she says, knew about the get together – or should have known – and made arrangements for it to be properly secured.
“The police should have known, the Housing Authority should have known, the [Scott] administration should have known, multiple agencies should have known.”
And “my office should have known,” Porter openly acknowledged in an interview today with The Brew.
Soul-searching and careful analysis is needed, she continued, to understand who, besides the perpetrators, should be held accountable for the mass shooting that claimed two young lives and injured 28 other attendees.
Previous MOUs with the City
Pointing the finger solely at police, Porter said, is not the right way to look at the tragedy and to prevent a recurrence.
In past years, the Brooklyn Homes Tenant Council coordinated the event and, while not obtaining a formal event permit, made sure that an MOU agreement with the city ensured that Brooklyn Day would be properly managed.
But in the last three years, the MOUs haven’t happened, Porter said. As to how it happened that police showed up last year but not this year, Porter said she’s not sure.
Pointing the finger solely at police, Porter said, is not the right way to look at the tragedy.
“Unfortunately, there hasn’t been consistent leadership in the Tenant Council,” she said, saying the organization wasn’t involved in this year’s organizing.
“This year it was done more in an ad hoc way by individuals.”
The party attracted roughly 800 people to reminisce, dance, ride ponies and enjoy outdoor cooking.
As night fell, it took on a different cast as a large number of young people amassed along Gretna Court, where a flurry of bullets rang out shortly before 12:30 on Sunday morning.
Council Hearing Next Week
Porter said she and her Council colleague, Mark Conway, who chairs the Public Safety and Government Operations Committee, plan to hold a hearing on July 13 at 5 p.m. to better understand what went wrong.
Four city agencies have been asked to testify: Police, the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (MONSE), Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) and Department of Transportation.
“We must scrutinize our existing systems, identify the weaknesses and implement effective measures to prevent similar incidents in the future,” she said in a statement on Sunday.