Occupy Baltimore protesters seek to remain until April

Occupy Baltimore protesters have asked city officials for permission to remain in an Inner Harbor park until April, according to an application submitted to the city.

Protesters delivered applications for permits to use the park to both Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the Recreation and Parks Department, a mayoral spokesman said Wednesday.

The president of the Maryland and District of Columbia chapter of the AFL-CIO union sent a letter to Rawlings-Bake calling on her to allow the protesters to remain.

"While confrontation and armed force might appear to be the traditional way of dealing with protest and unsure situations, such should not be the case in our cities," wrote chapter president Fred Mason Jr.

"I urge you to act with great restraint and responsibility. Rather than act on any calls to remove these peaceful and nonviolent protesters, you are called upon to deliberate and act on behalf of the 99% and respect the people's right to freedom of assembly," Mason wrote.

Ian Brennan, a spokesman for Rawlings-Blake, said that recreation and parks officials would decide whether to grant the protesters the permit for McKeldin Square.

"We'll trust in their judgment," Brennan said. "They receive thousands of these [applications] a year."

A recreation and parks spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment on the application.

Protesters requested permission for 40 tents to remain in the park during the evening and four large tents during the day for 25 to 300 people until April 16, according to the application.

Performances would include "reggae and other bands on an ad hoc basis" and "street dramas, plays, movies on an ad hoc basis," according to the document.

Members of the group declined to comment beyond the application.

Crowds ranging in size from about 20 to more than 150 people have gathered in the park — a paved brick area near the corner of Pratt and Light streets — since early October to show solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement and draw attention to wealth disparities, among other issues.

The city turned down a permit application from Occupy Baltimore last month. Officials attempted to strike a bargain with the protesters, offering free tents if the group would agree to have only two people remain at the site overnight. The group declined the offer.

While related actions in other cities, most notably in Oakland, Calif., have become violent, Baltimore authorities have avoided direct confrontations with the protesters.

City officials cut off electricity to the park a few weeks ago.

Occupy members have expressed concern that they will be forced to leave. They have taken to Twitter and Facebook to ask supporters to contact Rawlings-Blake.

Brennan, the mayoral spokesman, declined to say whether there were imminent plans to remove the protesters.

"We'll take action at a time of our choosing," he said, echoing comments by Rawlings-Blake.



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