Baltimore police arrest man on live TV, sparking questions on social media

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By Jason Hanna, Christina Zdanowicz and Justin Lear

(CNN – April 29, 2015)– As viewers watched on live television, a man held his hands up and walked in front of a phalanx of police in Baltimore on Tuesday night, after a citywide curfew had started.

Seconds later, several officers in riot gear rushed out of their line and arrested him, making social media churn with questions about what happened to the man.

The incident unfolded live on CNN about 40 minutes after the 10 p.m. curfew went into effect and as authorities tried to prevent the kind of rioting — part of protests over the death of Freddie Gray — that plagued the city a night earlier.

Authorities would eventually say the arrested man was Joseph Kent, held on a charge of curfew violation, according to the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

But people on Twitter already were circulating the name of Kent, a Baltimore activist, just minutes after the footage aired and before anyone announced why he was arrested, making #JosephKent and #WhereIsJosephKent hot topics for hours.

The detention came minutes after a group of people — with the curfew already having started — faced off with police near the intersection of Pennsylvania and North avenues. After objects appeared to have been thrown at the officers, police fired gas canisters, dispersing the crowd.

Roughly 15 minutes after that, a protester approached with his hands up. A Humvee came from behind the man and drove between him and CNN’s camera. Then at least four officers emerged from the line to detain the man.

Investigators made 10 arrests in Baltimore on Tuesday night, city Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said. Seven were for alleged curfew violations, he said.

A Baltimore attorney, Stephen Patrick Beatty, told CNN that Kent still was being processed at the city’s booking center Wednesday afternoon and hadn’t appeared before a court commissioner to have his bail set.

Beatty, who initially checked on Kent’s status despite not officially representing him, said via Twitter that Kent retained him as his attorney.

“I spoke with him for 20 minutes eye to eye,” Beatty wrote. “He is healthy and positive.”

Joseph Kent once was employed as an intern, through an outside company, at Morgan State University’s Entrepreneurial Development and Assistance Center, the school said Wednesday. But Kent is not a student there and, as far as the school can tell, never has been, MSU spokesman Clint Coleman said.

A woman who answered the phone at the EDAC said that no one there was available to talk about Kent and that she’d have no further comment.

In November, the Baltimore City Paper ran a story featuring Kent, then 21, and his participation in Baltimore protests over a grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in the August shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. He helped lead protesters who walked through Morgan State’s campus and eventually to City Hall on November 25, the newspaper reported.

“Everyone knows me at Morgan already, organizing and making sure everything (is) running the correct way and peaceful and everything like that,” he said, according to the City Paper’s article. “So, everybody already knows I’m going to do things the right way, so when everybody else and community people and civilians and people who joined and saw that the Morgan students were looking up to it, before you knew it, the whole city was on my back and I was just carrying the whole city.”

CNN’s Evan Perez and AnneClaire Stapleton contributed to this report.

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