A year after the “Occupy” movement began in New York and nine months after Occupy Baltimore protesters were cleared out of their downtown encampment, members say the movement is far from finished.
The Inner Harbor tent city might be gone, but a number of smaller activist groups have emerged from the Occupy Baltimore protests, said Mike McGuire, one of the group’s organizers.
One focuses on foreclosure relief and hosts community meetings to protect vulnerable homeowners in the city; another, an arts group called Green Pants — a play on “Greenpeace” — advocates for local hiring and fair wages in development projects, McGuire said.
Green Pants has used a powerful video projector to display massive animated images on the sides of buildings. In May, the group projected an animated tease for an upcoming protest on the side of the Galleria mall in the Inner Harbor. On Sunday, it projected an enormous “99%” on the side of the World Trade Center Baltimore.
The encampment might be long gone, but the issues of income disparity that led to the “Occupy” movement have not, McGuire said. Activists still were fighting, but maybe not using the “Occupy” name, he said.
The movement in general remains puzzling to some analysts.
“It’s not clear what they stand for, what their objectives are; not clear that they’re having much of an impact on politics,” said Todd Eberly, professor of political science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland in St. Mary’s city.
The movement’s broad focus on the gap between the 1 percent of the population that controls most of the wealth and the 99 percent that doesn’t ultimately clouds the issue of inequality, Eberly said.
A more effective conversation might focus on the income discrepancy between the bottom 20 percent and the next 70 percent, or on the drop in median income, Eberly said. Instead, the national conversation often is focused on the tax rates for a small percentage of top earners, he said.
But the emergence of smaller, more focused groups from within Occupy Baltimore was a reflection that participants were finding their niches, according to artist and Green Pants participant Jenny Graff.
Many participants had learned they only could devote themselves effectively to one project, Graff said.
“Some [of us] are organizers, some are wordsmiths, some are visual artists,” she said.