The Baltimore occupation of McKeldin Square enters its fifth week. Protesters have weathered an early winter storm, unfortunate media attention, and the city shutting off power to the encampment.
Baltimore Fox45 reported on October 31st that a woman had been raped over the weekend. Despite the claims made for Fox45, the Baltimore Sun quotes the Baltimore City Police as saying that, “the facts and evidence do not suggest that a sex offense occurred.”
With winter’s harsh weather coming on, protesters vow to stay on. Participant, Timothy Chin said that organizers have obtained two large “army tents” and donations of blankets. There are plans to restore power via bicycle-powered generators due to be online by week’s end.
Sustainworx had the opportunity to speak with Chin about his experience with Occupy Baltimore.
Those who would like to support the movement, but are unable to “occupy” may make in-kind or cash donations. See the group’s website for details.
Many Baltimoreans were stunned by the recent revelation that the metro area is one of the most expensive places to live in the nation. Low-wage workers serving Harbor Place and other tourist venue employers have known and dealt with this fact for years. They organized to address their plight collectively. The result of this organizing is United Workers, a collective of “low-wage workers leading the way to poverty’s end.”
United Workers and allies protested at the headquarters of Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) over the lack of transparency in dealings between the Corporation and real estate developers. The Cordish Company, “one of the largest and most respected developers in the world” has sought from the BDC rent concessions on other property it leases from Baltimore City totaling $3 million in exchange for improvements it intends to make at Power Plant Live which it leases from the city for $1,000.00 per year plus 22% of net profits. United Workers has a problem with this because there has been no public notification or input concerning the negotiations on the proposal.
Fair Wages and Benefits from Greg Cundiff on Vimeo.
The workers call for implementation of what they call “fair development” when developers utilize public funds or resources in their planning process. Unfortunately when development plans are goals are held secret there is no medium for public input. United Workers released a paper called, “Hidden in Plain Sight” which documents the need for fair development and the barriers to its implementation.
The Baltimore Development Corporation, created under former mayor William Donald Schaeffer, is a so-called quasi-public organization. It seeks funding from city government as any other public agency while maintaining the secrecy of a private company. The theory proposed by quasi-public development organizations is the secrecy is needed to conduct sensitive business negotiations. Community organizers counter that this secrecy keeps the public from knowing how public funds are used.
For background on how the development process works in Baltimore, please see Betty G. Robinson’s article, The Walmart Struggle in Baltimore – An Organizer Reflects on Addressing Public Money Giveaways to Corporate Power.