((UPDATE: We are now told that the city has requested that Occupy Baltimore respond to its ultimatum by Wednesday, Oct. 26, and has not issued a hard-and-fast deadline for the new rules to take effect. This is a fast-changing story and we will try to keep our readers informed with the best information available.))
The Department of Recreation and Parks has hand-delivered an ultimatum to Occupy Baltimore to drastically reduce its presence at McKeldin Square or else face eviction tomorrow (Oct. 26) for trespassing on public land.
Organizers said this morning that acceding to the agency’s demands would end their protest. “We believe [this] would represent the end of our functional occupation,” said Ian Logsdon, a member of the group’s media and outreach team. “We can’t comply with that and still be the protest we’re meant to be.”
Logsdon said the group is weighing its options with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and has called for an 8 p.m. mass meeting tonight at the campsite.
Protesters are prepared to be arrested and have been discussing “how to be arrested safely, being completely non-violent, etc.,” Logsdon said. Noting that his 25th birthday is tomorrow, “I may be spending it in jail.”
The notice by Rec and Parks sets out a series of conditions that must be followed to obtain a permit to occupy the park.
However, protesters told The Brew this morning that the Police Department, which would have to carry out any arrests, has shown flexibility. “We may have more time, it’s unclear whether we are going to be forced out, but that does seem to be the implication now,” said one protester.
One Tent and Two Campers Per Night
Among the conditions that Rec and Parks says Occupy Baltimore must follow:
• no more than two campers, occupying one tent, can remain overnight at the square.
• all other protesters must leave the square by 12 midnight.
• the group will be restricted day and night to a small “footprint” near the fountain.
• no open flames or other violations of fire safety requirements will be permitted and “one portable toilet may remain on site.”
• occupiers “may not obstruct, in any way, the rights of way” in the square or adjacent spaces in the Inner Harbor.
• protesters must notify city officials of “any significant population spikes/significant events or issues at the site.”
No Troubles So Far
In a statement today, the protesters adopted a low-key response:
“Considering their peaceful and respectful assembly, the group requests that the city allow them to maintain this peaceful democratic space, as city government counterparts in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., have [done].” In some other cities, there have been evictions and arrests.
Why Baltimore has decided to crack down now on the protest movement is uncertain. Spokesmen for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake did not immediately respond to questions from The Brew.
By all accounts, the three-week-old protest at the square has been peaceful.
There have been no reported incidents of rowdiness or conflicts with police, who have maintained a small presence near the camp. The protesters have not blocked pedestrian or car traffic, according to eyewitness reports.
The group recently set up its own security system, including rules for resolving complaints of sexual harassment, which dismayed some outside observers.
If the protesters agree to its demands, Recreation and Parks said it would provide – at no cost – 10 pop-up tents “for cover from inclement weather and locations for ‘community services’ within the Occupy footprint within the square along the fountain.”
In return for the tents, “Occupiers must use these tents and not construct other tents or structures in this area other than the ‘night watchmen’ tent. Attaching additional materials (such as tarps) to these pop-up tents is not allowed.”