Who Is Joseph Kent? The Community Activist Was Arrested On Live TV & People Are Demanding Answers
In Baltimore, one bizarre arrest caught on live TV Tuesday has ignited outrage from viewers and social media. Community activist Joseph Kent was walking with his hands up in front of a line of riot police during a live CNN broadcast after the city's mandatory curfew was in effect. As Kent walked away from the camera, an armored Humvee slowly rolled up and blocked him from view. Several National Guardsmen could be seen swooping in behind the vehicle and grabbing Kent. As the Humvee cruised away, Kent was gone. Those who noticed the stealthy move were shocked. So, who is Joseph Kent — and where is he?
According to Kent's LinkedIn page, the 21-year-old is a music student at Morgan State University in Baltimore. Previously described as a "Martin Luther King with tattoos and gold fronts," Kent became well-known in the community for organizing peaceful Ferguson protests in Baltimore following the death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown. In an interview with Baltimore City Paper, Kent said he had organized demonstrations since middle school.
Everyone knows me at Morgan already, organizing and making sure everything running the correct way and peaceful and everything like that. ... So, everybody already knows I'm going to do things the right way.
Bustle's requests for comment to the Baltimore Police Department were not immediately returned. Kent was arrested, and according to his lawyer Stephen Patrick Beatty, he was at the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center as of Wednesday night. Beatty spoke to CNN's Don Lemon and said he was working on expediting Kent's release from jail. Beatty said Kent was physically fine and defended his client's actions, saying what Kent did was "out of conscience."
He can't help but do things good for his community. ... Whether or not he should have been at home is a discussion for another day, but I think the broader issue here is what is his motivation. And someone was trying to do something good in the face of something bad, and I think we should respect that.
Viewers became alarmed at Kent's sudden arrest and disappearance, with some condemning authorities for "kidnapping." The hashtag #WhereIsJosephKent began trending on Twitter. Though Kent appeared to be violating the curfew that resulted after riots erupted in Baltimore Monday following Freddie Gray's funeral, The Washington Post's Wesley Lowery tweeted in defense of Kent, saying the activist was attempting to clear people from the street and keep the peace.
Regardless of whatever curfew violation Kent may or may not have incurred, what's key in these tense relations between police and the Baltimore community is transparency. The timing of the Humvee and Kent's out-of-view arrest can't be coincidental. Protests give people the chance to speak out, and that kind of arrest will only make people's voices louder.