We’re not going to make a lot of friends with this editorial. In fact, we might lose a few. But before we get into to our opinion about why the Occupy Baltimore protest is misguided and silly, we want you to meet a young man named De’Von Brown.
Brown, 21, was a “Boy from Baraka” and is currently a student at MICA. He came from a household ravaged by drugs and absentee parents. Brown was labeled as one of Baltimore‚Äôs at-risk youth statistics and lived in foster care with his grandparents since age 3.
He works hard at the Charm City Community Block Fest where he has volunteered for four years and is employed at Taharka Bros. ice cream.
He was also a candidate for the 12th District which includes Charles Village, Waverly, Abell and parts of Barclay including artist residences like the Copy Cat Building and the City Arts building.
Brown came to our front door loaded with goals and dreams of reforming the city from within and kicking out the old regime. We loved him, to say the least, and took a sign for our window. On election day, we dutifully turned out and pressed “BROWN” on the screen.
He lost. In the worst election turn out in the city’s history.
Now we come to the Occupy Baltimore protest, who, based on Twitter feeds and FB updates, hope to change the city’s policies by sitting in a small triangle at the tourist (and media) friendly Inner Harbor.
Last weekend, we stopped by the Occupy Wall Street protest in NYC. It’s a gloriously amorphous mob of people who are fed up. And we totally got it. Together, Gutter’s contributors have been involved in several big protests, including the anti-IMF and WTO rallies in Prague back in the day, so we’re not against an angry public rising up as one voice.
If it’s for the common good. Which the Baltimore protest, in our opinion, is not.
It’s lazy.
Granted, a number of the local protesters do unimaginable good for the city in their own time. Especially the Red Emma’s crew who co-run the Baltimore Free School etc..
But our rant is directed at those who think that suddenly, they, by sitting in a square or attending a meeting at a church, are going to affect change in the city. In short, where were all these people on the city’s voting day when virtually no one showed up?
Where were the Google+ groups, the Twitter feeds and FB “likes” when De’Von Brown was going door-to-door trying to change the city from within? Anyone ever see a #votetodaybaltimore tag?
Where were the back room meetings “General Assemblies” and “committees” that organized trips to the voting booth? Where were the young, concerned voters? Sleeping or recovering from a Floristree show.
When it comes to real, local change, just “showing up” to a protest is not enough. We READ the City Paper’s candidate breakdowns, follow reporters like the Sun’s Julie Scharper, who all but put her life on hold to cover and tweet every single debate. Then we made an informed decision, got up early and went to the (empty) voting booth.
It’s unconscionable the number of friends we talked to at our hang out, Liam’s, the night before the Primary Elections who joked about being too hung over to vote and are now part of the “Occupy Baltimore” movement (and you know who you are).
We get that you want to protest. To call attention to the city’s ills. But if you didn’t vote, you can’t be taken seriously.
You want to really do something? Stop Tweeting and start helping.
Here’s a challenge for you, protester, this weekend instead of waving your placard for the passing cameras, stop by Red Emma’s or a mission, or a domestic violence shelter, or a campaign headquarters and ask “What can I do to help?”
Manipulating the media, gathering in a tourist area (wouldn’t it REALLY be better to gather some place that needs attention like, say the drug and violence addled Sandtown or the extreme West Side where kids are suffering from lead poisoning) and “tweeting the Revolution” are not the answers to the complex problem faced by Baltimore City. It might help you sleep well at night knowing that you “showed up” and “were a part of something”, but it won’t do any good.
Ask De’Von Brown if he has time to sit in a drum circle at the Inner Harbor and wave ineffective signs and he’ll probably politely pass on the invite. Because he’s too busy working to finance his next political campaign and getting his feet ready to hit the Bmore pavement in search of votes. Again.