Woman stabbed at Occupy Baltimore encampment, police say
By By Justin Fenton
Dec 05, 2011 at 6:16 PM
Baltimore Police say a 24-year-old woman was stabbed during a dispute around midnight Saturday at the Occupy Baltimore encampment at the Inner Harbor.
According to a police report, officers arrived at McKeldin Square just after midnight for a report of an assault and spoke to the victim, who said she and 23-year-old Desiree Nicholson had gotten into an argument "because [Nicholson] was not taking care of her cat," according to report.
She said Nicholson kicked her in the stomach, and then stabbed her on her arm and thigh with a knife. The victim was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital for treatment, police said.
Nicholson, who police said lives in Halethorpe, was charged with first-degree assault and was being held on $75,000 bond. According to court records, she does not have a prior criminal record.
The Occupy protest, a local offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement that seeks to call attention to income inequality and other issues, recently reached its two month anniversary. But it has struggled at times deal with a dwindling number of core leaders, the seemingly imminent threat of eviction, and allegations of crime and drug use among some who have frequented the encampment.
Organizer Annemarie Rush said the victim and suspect have been staying at the site for "quite some time, but they are not considered to be active participants in our greater goals."
"We have attracted a wide array of different parts of Baltimore, and different people who feel they have been disenfranchised," Rush said. "That also includes all of the problems that come with Baltimore and society in general."
She said organizers were "horrified" by the stabbing and said the suspect was not welcome back. "We don't condone their actions at all," she said.
As police across the country have evicted protesters – in some cases leading to ugly clashes and claims of police brutality – officials here have largely taken a hands-off approach, denying permits for using the park but saying they would enforce that denial "at a time of our choosing."
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"The City of Baltimore is committed to protecting individuals' right to protest. However, permanent camping is prohibited in our public parks and individuals are free to peaceably assemble and demonstrate within the currently established guidelines. The city has repeatedly communicated this to individuals on-site," said Ryan O'Doherty, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
He added that the city would "fully investigate any individual acts of dangerous criminal behavior and take immediate action."
In their two months at the Inner Harbor, the group has taken part in various protests and sought to spur public dialogue about social issues. One homeless recently woman told the City Council that the encampment had been "accommodating in ways the city hasn't been."
But previous allegations of theft and assault have roiled the group. At meetings of participants, called "general assemblies," speakers have in the past openly questioned whether they could maintain control of the diverse community.
Rush said organizers have no plan to leave. "This is just the first step in the Occupy movement," she said.