Baltimore DSA Condemns Selective Policing of “Squeegee Kids”

Baltimore DSA Condemns Selective Policing of “Squeegee Kids”

Mayor Bernard C. Jack Young has cynically targeted black children who earn money washing car windows in high-traffic areas, also known as “squeegee kids”. Recently, Councilman Costello has built on his years-long campaign to eliminate these children by proposing police fine people who give them money. These behaviors only extend the criminalization of Black youth in Baltimore City from a political class that has historically treated Black Baltimore residents as obstacles to attracting largely white, affluent non-residents to spend money in selectively policed spaces like the Inner Harbor, where businesses contribute so little to the city in property taxes. This empirically ineffective, patently myopic, and inherently racist “broken windows” policing has to stop.

Young, Costello, and others in their political alignment speak of the lowest-income, least represented residents of Baltimore as threats to divest from, but, as we’ve seen over the past five years - from the murder of Freddie Gray, to the creation of the Dirt Bike Task Force, to the conviction of the Baltimore Gun Trace Task Force, to former Mayor Catherine Pugh’s resignation - Baltimore’s elites are pinnacles of crime and corruption. These same institutions passed a budget of $500 million for the Baltimore Police Department, while systematically divesting from low-income, predominantly Black Butterfly neighborhoods. We’ve seen after-school programs and recreation centers cut and closed for decades; we’ve seen kids sitting in cold schools in the middle of the winter, and roasting without functioning water fountains in those same schools during warmer months. The same people condemning resourceful youth workers today have long created the needs kids and their families are forced to meet for themselves. When policy prioritizes policing over infrastructure, it prioritizes white feelings over Black bodies.

According to our mayor, who wasn’t democratically elected, these are the same people who threaten Baltimore. Those who have insecure housing, who have medical debts with Johns Hopkins, and whose water bills have been inequitably charged represent many in this city who do not have a say in the machinations of City Hall. The unemployment rate in Baltimore is highest among Black youth, yet our city gave away one hundred million dollars to Under Armour. Some kids trying to make a few bucks in the wake of the city tying its future to wealthy investors who profit regardless of our economy are certainly the least to blame for whatever ills exist here.

The Baltimore chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America condemns these attacks on working class Black people, and stands for redirecting all money from the police budget to the city’s marginalized communities. Only then can the city begin to dismantle Baltimore’s institutional racism and legacy of redlining. We embrace the potential for a city in which children aren’t forced into the informal labor market and then penalized for it.

We want a future for Baltimore in which all its residents can actually live with equal access to all available resources and mobility within all public spaces in the city. Perhaps Mayor Young and Councilman Costello could learn from the resourcefulness of the squeegee kids and build policy that supports, rather than risks, their lives. These kids are Baltimore, and they are building futures for themselves. We would love to see city leadership join them.

Solidarity Forever,

The Greater Baltimore Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America