Yesterday the Baltimore Sun ran this front-page article on activist/leader C.D. Witherspoon, who has been at the forefront of fighting rampant police brutality in the city’s African American community. Local activists say it was an attempt to red-bait and race-bait C.D. and the movement, but it’s backfired, spurring a wave of support.
After police custody death, Baltimore activist builds profile
Within an hour after an East Baltimore man died while in police custody, Cortly “C.D.” Witherspoon got an urgent phone call from someone with connections to the family,asking for his help.
The next day, Witherspoon, a 30-year-old clergyman and single father, walked the streets conducting what he calls a “community investigation.” Though police said Anthony Anderson had died from choking on drugs, people who said they saw the arrest described an assault.
Anderson’s death has since been ruled a homicide, and Witherspoon and his bullhorn have been at the center of rallies calling attention to the issue. His early involvement in such a high-profile case is no coincidence — a gifted speaker who has forged unlikely ties with activists such as the Occupy movement, Witherspoon has been emerging as an omnipresent agitator.
“I walked into a distraught house,” he said, recalling the aftermath of Anderson’s death. “I walked into a house that was a family unit that was strong, and very connected, but was distraught by what they had encountered. I could tell in their eyes that what they were saying was accurate.”
The Park Heights resident, who plans to protest Police Commissioner Anthony Batts’ confirmation hearing Wednesday, uses rhetoric that is often biting — some say overly inflammatory. In August, he was arrested after refusing to leave City Hall while trying to deliver a letter to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blakeregarding alleged police brutality.
Witherspoon makes no apologies. At recent anti-police rallies, supporters have accused officers of murder and held signs that read, “Jail killer police.” In an interview at an office space he shares with a socialist group, Witherspoon said such comments “accurately capture the sentiments of the community, who really do feel terrorized.
We were here, yesterday, at this protest.