Baltimore’s City Council overwhelmingly rejected a proposal that would have allowed the mayor to lock down streets and close businesses in areas declared an emergency, says the Baltimore Sun. Eleven members of the City Council spoke against the proposal by Council Vice President Robert Curran that would have allowed police to close liquor stores and bars, limit the number of people on city sidewalks, and halt traffic in areas declared “public safety act zones.”
“It’s a bad idea and I think it’s a bad message to send,” said Councilman James B. Kraft. “I’m very concerned about the establishment of martial law in Baltimore.” After seeing that the idea had virtually no support, Curran withdrew it. He said, “If I’m wrong and the murder rate goes up, God help us all.” The legislation would have permitted police to limit the number of people who could gather on sidewalks, in streets, or in other outdoor areas in the safety zones and would have prohibited the sale and possession of weapons. Zones would have been established solely by the mayor, initially for two weeks, with the option to renew indefinitely. Provisions were identical to a law in Philadelphia that gained attention when a mayoral candidate and former city councilman proposed relying more aggressively on it. That candidate, Michael Nutter, won the Democratic nomination for mayor last week. Baltimore already is operating Operation Protect, in which the city barricades neighborhoods and floods them with police and city services. Two neighborhoods are taking part in the program now, and two will be added.