BALTIMORE — Investigators with the Baltimore City Police Department are looking for the person or persons responsible for burning an American flag and vandalizing Baltimore City's Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 Saturday night.
According to a police report obtained by WMAR-2 News there were roughly 30-50 protesters blocking vehicle traffic along Buena Vista Avenue around 10 p.m. Flares were set up in the roadway.
Witnesses tell WMAR-2 news the group chanted “Defund 12” and held signs reading “Black Lives Matter” as they stood shoulder-to-shoulder across the street.
"It wasn’t a huge demonstration," said Mark Plakotoris. "It couldn’t of been more than 30 people but it seemed like there was a significant amount of law-enforcement there."
Plakotoris lives and works near the FOP building. He said he came out to see what was going on because he heard the police helicopter circling above telling the crowd to disperse. He even took pictures of the group but said he didn't know about the vandalism and we told him.
"I don’t think vandalism is ever a good choice," he said. "There are different ways people express themselves but also, private property is private property and that's not something that should be tolerated."
In a statement Sunday FOP President Mike Mancuso blasted Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, calling him “a complete no show,” while also calling out the inappropriate behavior of protesters.
“Last night, anarchists attacked Baltimore City FOP Lodge #3 by defacing our building and burning our American flag. This was an attack on not only our building but also on the men and women of the Baltimore Police Department, both active and retired. The damage that was done has been corrected and we will continue our work to represent the rank and file members of the BPD. No losers who live in their Mommy and Daddy’s basements will ever be able to deter us in our mission."
“The Police Commissioner, however, is a different story and the fact that he seems to have disappeared during all of this is disgusting," Mancuso continued. "Commissioner Harrison was available, several weeks ago, to kneel in the street with these losers but when it comes to supporting the working members of the BPD, he’s a complete no show; not even a simple phone call or text. While I understand his slight to me, the incredible disrespect he’s shown to our membership is unconscionable and I can promise that it will be remembers. Baltimore City and its Police Officers deserve better than a completely ineffective leader who disappears when leadership is required!”
Maryland's Senate Republicans also issued a statement condemning the acts.
We condemn the vandalism of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge that occurred on Saturday night in Baltimore City. While we support the First Amendment rights of all Marylanders to peacefully protest, the damage that rioters caused to the building and their desecration of the Lodge’s American flag is an unacceptable attack on every law enforcement officer in our State. We are disappointed that Baltimore City leaders were not more proactive in diffusing this situation before it turned violent. The tepid response to this incident, as well as that to the destruction of Baltimore’s Columbus statue earlier this summer, establishes a dangerous precedent. All citizens have the right to peacefully assemble and exercise their right to free speech. But when these protected activities devolve into vandalism and lawlessness, there must be consequences. Those who committed this act of vandalism must be held responsible to the fullest extent of the law. We call on the leaders of Baltimore City to condemn these actions, and to immediately detail their plan to combat the obvious criminal behavior of these rioters before this unrest escalates and spreads any further. We continue to stand with all of Maryland’s law enforcement professionals who put their lives on the line every day in service to their communities and our State.
The city’s police department on Sunday morning said an investigation is underway.
“Last night, the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police building was targeted and vandalized with derogatory messages and an American Flag was burned. There is an active and ongoing investigation into this act of vandalism and destruction of property. While we will continue to engage with our communities to create and repair community-police relations and protect the first amendment rights of our residents, we will absolutely not tolerate acts of vandalism and will hold these offenders accountable.” said Commissioner Michael Harrison.
As of Monday suspect information was limited. FOP said it has turned over video surveillance of the incident to police. When asked if we could obtain a copy or review it for transparency sake we were told no.
Anyone with information about the destruction of property is asked to call Baltimore City Police.