This is What Democracy Looks Like
Baltimore City Council meeting versus Occupy Baltimore General Assembly, Oct. 17
Published: October 26, 2011
City Paper attended the Oct. 17 City Council meeting, followed by Occupy Baltimore’s nightly General Assembly, which had been rumored to be a long night of interminable minutia punctuated by drama. Nope: just people trying to get shit done, imperfectly. The Occupy Baltimore people did take longer. They also were more generous, though—and with their own money.
City Council meeting
Started at 5:02 p.m., ended at 6:15 p.m.
Presiding members: 16, including Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young (D)
New agenda items: four (excluding “consent calendar,” with more than 80 items requiring no deliberation)
Showcase: Guardian Angels. Marcus “Strider” Dent talks about the re-formed group and how, unlike the old days, it now asks neighborhood people for support and works with the police. Young mentions that the group is all-volunteer and needs money. Councilmembers and spectators applaud.
Resolutions introduced: “Worker Dignity” for hotel and restaurant employees, particularly those employed by companies that get big city subsidies; a request for a state law increasing the penalties for impersonating a police officer; support for National Aquarium’s effort to get state tax credits.
Quotes: “We don’t go anywhere unless invited. We don’t just walk through, but it’s hard to motivate people to get up and do anything.” (Dent)
“I’m pleased to see that this has been referred to committee so we can have a discussion.” (Councilmember Mary Pat Clarke, D-14th District)
“We had an outbreak of cantaloupe in Maryland. It was bad. It was terrible. We had a death.” (Councilmember William “Pete” Welch, D-9th District) (He apparently meant listeria.)
“If you all don’t mind, when voting, say ‘aye’ so I can hear it—unless y’all have something against saying ‘aye.’” (Young)
Occupy Baltimore General Assembly
Started at 8:19 p.m., it was still going when City Paper left close to 10 p.m. (The official end time is listed as 9:52 p.m.)
Facilitators: Shallon and Larry
Presiding members: four (facilitator, stack keeper, time keeper, and note taker). About 45 in the assembly.
New agenda items: four (not including committee reports that get their own time and discussion)
Showcase: The Baltimore Higher Education Alliance for Real Democracy (B-HEARD), represented by Kim Jensen and Julie Lewis. Jensen says the organization is an “affinity group” with Occupy Baltimore and seeks to get more college students, faculty, and staff involved with the movement. She also wants to stage a candlelight vigil on Oct. 30 and a Nov. 5 rally with music and art. People in the assembly ask questions.
Committee reports: The Goals and Purposes Committee came to an understanding that the organization wants to effect change when it comes to economic inequality. Also to keep the Occupy movement going.
Outreach Committee “is poppin’” and has started canvassing neighborhoods.
Food Committee is meeting with Baltimore Free Farm. The members cook big meals every day at the 2640 Space kitchen. (At this, the crowd applauds.)
Mediation Committee: A committee was formed, but only two people showed up. It was done in light of safety issues, complaints of sexual harassment, etc.
A Cleaning Committee is forming. (The square is actually one of the more litter-free areas of the city.)
1) A couple from West Virginia needs $46 for bus fare to get back home for a grandparent’s funeral. The woman makes the appeal, her voice cracking. The group is called to vote on whether to give the money. In 30 seconds, before the vote is held, people in the crowd ante up the money, plus some extra for food.
2) The Safer Space Committee wants permission to take 10 minutes in the Thursday meeting. No one on the committee is present; the group votes unanimously to grant the time anyway.
3) A march is proposed. No time or date set.
4) The music discussion resumes. Two days ago it was decided that certain quiet hours would be held, at least for the next two days, to see how that goes. Now it’s time to assess how it went. The single public-address system in the park is the seat of power, so sharing that resource is a major concern. There is a call to form a Sound Committee to formulate and keep track of PA use in addition to band and music time. The discussion begins at 9:18.
Quotes: “We want to make it really easy for kids to join up.” (Kim Jensen)
“The Direct Action Committee has disbanded, because the anarchists revolted.” (Asa Wilder, sole member of the Direct Action Committee, just before the meeting; the committee was re-formed the day after.)
“This is what we’re here to do. We’re here to have a democratic process. We are the solution.” (Facilitator of Goals and Purpose Committee)
“We still have a security team. If there’s anything violent, I encourage you to still do the hooty-hoo.” (Shallon)
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