Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, expresses grave concern over the arbitrary suspension of fundamental civil liberties and the targeted judicial persecution of persons arrested for participating in ongoing demonstrations in Baltimore, USA.
“The decision to prolong pre-trial detention and the imposition of exorbitant bail on protestors in Baltimore is a blatant manipulation of the right to liberty enshrined in national and international law,” said Tor Hodenfield, Policy and Research Officer at CIVICUS. “The destruction of property during the largely peaceful protests does not give the authorities carte blanche to undermine the rights of its citizens.”
On Tuesday, April 29, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued an executive order extending the pre-trial detention of over 200 people arrested for their involvement in the protests. While Maryland law requires all persons arrested without a warrant to be presented before a judicial officer within 24 hours, Governor Hogan has prolonged pre-trial detention to 47 hours. On Wednesday evening numerous protestors were reportedly released after submitting petitions to the attorney general’s office challenging the legality of their detention.
The vast majority of those who were awaiting adjudication were arrested for breaching the 10pm-5am curfew imposed on Baltimore city following Governor Hogan’s declaration of a state of emergency on Tuesday. Thousands of National Guard troops and Baltimore and Maryland state police deployed to enforce the state of emergency have also repeatedly used tear gas and pepper balls to disperse individuals refusing to obey the curfew.
Moreover, Baltimore city courts imposed disproportionate and excessive bail on several individuals who were charged since the protests began. On Saturday, April 25, bail bonds ranging from 150,000 to 500,000 USD were handed down to a number of individuals accused of crimes including rioting, disorderly conduct, and reckless endangerment. Many individuals who were unable to pay the hefty bail bonds were imprisoned pending further investigation.
“Across the US, from Ferguson to New York to Baltimore we are seeing a growing intolerance of the right to protest,” said Tor Hodenfield. “The authorities in the US must end their strong arm tactics and take all necessary precautions to safeguard and facilitate peoples’ right to demonstrate peacefully.”