BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Two North Baltimore businesses are speaking out after Gov. Larry Hogan used images of their establishments to promote his “Refund the Police” initiative.

Last Tuesday, Hogan visited small businesses in the Waverly neighborhood, including Pete’s Grill, Peabody Heights Brewery and Urban Reads Bookstore, to meet with business owners and highlight the $1.2 million his administration invested in the Waverly Main Street program as part of the Maryland Strong Economic Recovery Initiative.

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Later that day, pictures from his tour showed up in a Facebook post on the governor’s page, along with a message promoting Neighborhood Safety Grants as part of Hogan’s “Re-fund the Police” initiative.

The governor announced the $150 million plan to shore up law enforcement funding the plan in October, kicking things off by raising Maryland State Troopers’ starting salary by 45 percent.

Eddie O’Keefe, of Peabody Heights Brewery, said he’s frustrated the business was used to push the agenda.

“This was supposed to be a simple meet and greet to discuss the SERI grants that were given to small businesses and Nonprofits throughout Main Streets,” said a statement Sunday on the brewery’s Facebook page. “We do not support these measures and never have. We believe our work in the community shows that we have different values than our governor.”

Tia Hamilton, a prison reform advocate and owner of bookstore Urban Reads, called Hogan a “fraud” Monday in an Instagram post accompanied with screenshots of O’Keefe’s statement.

“I dare him to play with us like this and whoever else is responsible is under fire,” Hamilton said. “We are owed an apology ASAP. DON’T EVER INCLUDE US IN YOUR POLITICAL PROPAGANDA.”

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Hogan said the Neighborhood Safety Grants, which are not yet available, will support hardware upgrades, lighting, cameras, and increased security services.

Efforts to “defund the police” have grown in popularity nationwide amid unrest in the wake of high-profile police killings of civilians, such as George Floyd.

But the name is a misnomer since it means reducing police funding and spending more on programs to address root causes, not eliminating police budgets. The Baltimore Police Department’s budget rose by $28 million this year.

In his October announcement of the initiative, Hogan singled out Baltimore to emphasize his point.

“They’re on pace to surpass 300 homicides again this year,” he said. “The Baltimore Police Department is short-staffed by more than 300 officers. The city of Baltimore is a poster child for the basic failure to stop lawlessness. There’s a prosecutor who refuses to prosecute crime. And there’s a revolving door of repeat offenders who are being let right back onto the streets to shoot people again and again.”

The Governor’s Office had this to say in response to an inquiry from WJZ:

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“The governor enjoyed his visit to the Waverly community and remains committed to strengthening the economic potential of Maryland’s main streets and neighborhoods.”

CBS Baltimore Staff