Well known activist and artist Kwame Rose was found guilty Tuesday of failing to obey an order from law enforcement while protesting the December mistrial of a Baltimore police officer charged with negligence following the death of Freddie Gray.
His attorneys have promised to fight this verdict through appeal.
Rose, 21 – whose legal name of Darius Rosebrough was referred to interchangeably throughout the trial – was also found not guilty on three related charges: obstructing vehicle traffic in front of the courthouse, obstructing pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk, and disturbing the peace by using a bull horn.
The arrest took place outside the downtown Circuit Court building on December 16, after a jury failed to reach a consensus regarding the trial of Baltimore Police Officer William Porter, who had been charged on four criminal counts including manslaughter following Gray’s death.
A 25-minute video of the protest was played, and Rose watched himself leading a passionate indictment of Baltimore’s criminal justice system.
“We’re not breaking any laws! We’re not obstructing anybody! We have constitutional rights!” he shouted as sheriff’s deputies tried to disperse people.
District Judge Jack Lesser, who presided over the case, said “emotions were obviously running high” during the protest, and that Rose was likely acting in what he “thought was a lawful manner.” Nonetheless, his decision to continue talking on a bull horn while a sheriff’s deputy was giving an official despersal notice “could have caused a major problem in front of the court house.”
Lesser imposed a $500 fine plus court fees. In doing so, he swiftly rejected a request by prosecutor Paul W. O’Connor, chief of the Baltimore State Attorney’s District Court division, that Rose be placed on probation for a year.
Austin Dalton, who shot video of the protest in question, was called as a witness to discuss what he saw that day. Using the footage, Rose’s attorney Kenneth W. Ravenell showed his client to the court as a political activist and protest leader watching out for others and advising them not to block traffic lanes.
Dalton testified that Rose had stayed out of the traffic throughout the entirety of the demonstration.
Freddie Gray, 25, died after suffering a severe spinal cord injury in the back of a police transport van in April, spurring widespread protests against police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Six Baltimore police officers were charged in his arrest and death on May 1, with all of them subsequently pleading not guilty.
Porter, the only officer to go to trial thus far, is set to be retried this summer. The other cases are all pending.
Rose ascended to prominence during the ensuing protests in the aftermath of Gray’s death, and was most famous for confronting Geraldo Rivera over what was widely seen as blatantly biased reporting from Fox News regarding the protests:
He also penned an opinion piece in Mashable about why isn’t “feeling the Bern” or endorsing any political candidates this election season, imploring all political leaders to make more sweeping efforts to eradicate institutional racism.
David Rocah, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland who was also representing Rose, said Lesser’s decision to find Rose guilty of disobeying a lawful order was “both factually and legally incorrect” and “inconsistent with the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.”
He, along with Ravenell, plans on appealing this verdict within the next 30 days, which will likely lead to a new jury trial.
In a brief statement outside the courthouse, Rose thanked Ravenell and the ACLU for their representation and vowed to “continue this fight in court, and I’ll continue to protest and advocate that other people’s rights to peacefully protest won’t be hindered in the future.”