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Baltimore City Bill to end gag orders moves forward

Posted at 11:52 PM, Sep 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-17 09:37:24-04

BALTIMORE — Silence and secrecy. Two things Baltimore Citizens say they're done dealing with.

That's why dozens spoke up Monday night in front of Baltimore City council members pushing for an end to gag orders in settlements in city lawsuits, especially police brutality cases.

Several people filled City Hall wearing police tape with their mouths covered. One woman said, "while I can take this tape off my mouth and say what I need to say too many people cannot."

Some speakers talked about how they were victims of police brutality.

"It only prohibited me from speaking, not the city. So while the officers remained unnamed and protected my name was once again drug through the mud," said Ashley Overbey Underwood.

Others said it was their parent, child or sibling.

"Silencing the victims, it won't solve anything," said Marcus Pettiford.

Tawanda Jones was at the meeting. She is well-known in the community as an activist. She's been speaking up for six years, ever since her brother's death.

While council works on this bill, Mayor Jack Young signed an executive order to bar the use of gag orders in police settlements. "It only bars unreasonable NDA (non-disclosure agreement) and leaves to the sole discretion of the city solicitor," said David Rocah, the Senior Staff Attorney for ACLU Maryland.

RELATED: Mayor Jack Young officially ends gag orders on City lawsuit settlements following Federal court ruling

There was no support for the executive order, so the crowd was pleased when council unanimously voted to move the bill forward. The room erupted in claps. Councilman Leon Pinkett replied and said, "You shouldn't applause us for doing what's right."

The second reading will be at the City Council meeting next Monday. If it passes then it moves on to a third reading before it can become law. Even though Monday's public comment revolved mainly around police brutality, the law focuses on all city lawsuits.