23 July 2013

Artscape Was Great Until... An Open Letter To The Mayor

Artscape regular, James MacArthur, with a subtle message.
To The Honorable Madame Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake

One of the highlights of my summers in Baltimore has always been Artscape. This year was no exception. My visit to the annual free festival was nearly perfect, until a most unfortunate incident. 

Although [this time] I wasn't the primary target of the sheer rudeness and brusque treatment given to visitors by members of the Baltimore Police Department. What I saw at the end was quite disheartening.

The city spends a lot of time and money encouraging people to visit Baltimore. Not only do we need them to come to our festivals, we need them to spend their money here. The economic boost is unquestionable. It would be great if the police, by their actions, didn't undermine this effort.
"If I go on the internet talking bad about Baltimore Police, this is something I'm gonna have to deal with repercussions of..."
"Artscape is closed, you gotta shutdown!" said the unidentified policeman, his tone firm and gruff. Hardly the way to speak to a vendor. These folks spend big money to be part of city promotions.

Police have a legitimate job to do, but this doesn't mean when they do it, all courtesy and tact should be discarded.

While vendors were finishing up their final sales, the police returned several times hammering home the message in the same impolite manner.

For vendors who'd spent good money for the opportunity to sell there, back to back temporary emergency closures on account of hazardous weather, had already put a dent in expected sales. With piles of already prepared food still on hand, attempting to sell off a few last minute items to hungry patrons shouldn't be treated as a disruptive act.

Welcome To Baltimore

Even visitors were not spared. They too were doled a dose of the unique customer service experience by these shining ambassadors of the city of Baltimore. Pedestrians walking into an area, that had just minutes before been wide open all day, were sternly told to turn around and leave "ARTSCAPE IS CLOSED!" 

Community Welcoming Committee: Note hand placement of cop on the right.
Despite the out of control violence our city is currently in midst of, if we're to see any true sustainable growth, it's not just the bad guys that will have to get their act together.

You may have not heard any reports of these incidents in the media, but I caution not to take that to mean it didn't happen. I spoke to a vendor and asked him how he felt about what was going on. In quite strong language, he vented and expressed his dissatisfaction.

I asked him for permission to record his interview, he flat out told me no. Then went on to add: "I live in the city. I don't want to be a target. If I go on the internet talking bad about Baltimore Police, this is something I'm gonna have to deal with repercussions of, I gotta live here!"

Somehow, I don't imagine having large segments of the population, living under a sphere of fear and terror, of those paid and sworn to serve and protect, is how we're going to make our city more attractive.

It was just two year ago when you said; "If Baltimore is to have a future, the leadership in the city has to focus on making the city a vibrant, growing city... if you're not focused on growing it, you're resigned to a slow death." You also famously stated you had a goal of seeing 10,000 new families in 10 years. Will there be a progress report issued on this to see how it's working out and where we're at?

Despite my own personal negative experience with the Baltimore Police Department, this brief account of some of what I saw at Artscape isn't good for the city. 

Again, I ask you and your administration to take seriously the repeated call for concrete ACTION towards reforming our police department. Not just talk. God knows we've already had too much of that. Common courtesy goes a long way Madame Mayor. You want us to work with them, they're gonna have to work with us.

Yours Truly;

A.F. James MacArthur
Citizen, taxpayer (during non incarcerated years), curator of common sense

Community activist, independent journalist, and entrepreneur, A.F. James MacArthur is used to not being welcomed in public places.

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To all those who willfully, deliberately and routinely violate the civil rights of law abiding American Citizens; Yes, you're powerful. Sure, you're everywhere. But this is still America, and the Constitution of the United States Of America still reigns supreme as the law of the land. The Baltimore Spectator will vigorously and aggressively defend against any and all attempts at spying and suppression. Let it be known to all that we are already aware of the regular monitoring and shadowing attempts. There is nothing to hide, but cross the line and there will be hell to pay.

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A.F. James MacArthur -- American patriot & lover of liberty.

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