Occupy Baltimore says Baltimore Police interrupted Celebration concert

The Baltimore Sun

Occupy Baltimore organizers blamed Baltimore Police for the cancellation of a concert Saturday by the band Celebration.

They said police warned them any concerts at McKeldin Square would be shut down, and the concert was canceled preemptively. Baltimore Police said concerts are not allowed at the square over safety and crowd concerns.

The cancellation comes as law enforcement across the country has stepped up its efforts to dismantle the activist movement Occupy Wall Street. On Tuesday morning, New York City Police cleared Zuccotti Park, where protesters have gathered for over a month, on orders from Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

And in St. Louis, protesters were arrested over the weekend for refusing to obey the city's eviction notice from a public park.

The band Celebration, which put out a widely acclaimed album earlier this year, "Hello, Paradise," was scheduled to perform at McKeldin at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Throughout the day organizers advertised the performance, the first by a major Baltimore act at the plaza, on social media. Other local performers - like Wye Oak and Dan Deacon - have expressed support for the protest but have not performed because of touring commitments.

But, sometime around 1 p.m. police started gathering at the square, said organizer Jenny Sheppard. One of the officers told an organizer that police had orders to remove the band if it started to set up equipment to play, Sheppard said.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi confirmed police told organizers concerts of any kind were not permitted at the square "due to public safety and crowd concerns."

Sheppard told the band of police's plans and they agreed to cancel the concert. The band showed up anyway to show their support and performed their set later Saturday night at Holy Frijoles in Hampden.

"In the end, we decided that it was not worth it to the movement or the band to create a conflict with the police over this performance," Sheppard said.

Sheppard said the cancellation was unnecessary because organizers had taken steps to address concerns from law enforcement. Instead of using generators, which are prohibited on the square, the band planned on using battery-powered amps to perform an acoustic set. They also told police that the band would not disrupt traffic.

In a statement, organizers said they are seeking a permanent way, like a permit, to allow future performances at the square.

Guglielmi did not say if a permit would clear the way for concerts. A spokesman for City Hall has not responded to requests for comment.

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