In the relentless Saturday rain, we visited Occupy Baltimore to see how they were doing after a morning of “wintry mix” (i.e., wet snow) and a night of intermittently pounding rain and temperatures in the high 30s.
Most were apparently huddled in the tents, though a few were out at the food tent, eating donated pizza and talking to passersby.
“It was pretty horrible out here last night,” said William Kutschbach, a Vietnam vet who has been sleeping in the back fountain area at McKeldin Square. Kutschbach said he didn’t get too wet and stays warm with a quilt and a moving blanket.
Kutschbach bummed a light from Vince Rogalski, a research coordinator at Johns Hopkins who has been supporting Occupy, though not sleeping there.
We asked Rogalski if he worries about the city pushing the “occupiers” out, and he gestured toward the windy, rainy scene around him.
“I’m more worried about the winter than I am the mayor,” he said. “We win if we’re here in the spring.”
“We’re here and we’re staying until things get better,” said Rogalski, estimating that about 50 people slept in the square Friday night. Rogalski said he has found the Occupy organization surprisingly impressive.
“I gave up protesting after the Iraq war but when I came down here and saw the medical setup and the food and the organization – I said ‘This is something different!’” he said.
Although Rogalski thinks the Occupiers should be allowed to remain, he expressed some sympathy with city officials. “The mayor has a point: they don’t want someone to get hurt,” he said. “They have some legitimate concerns.”
Whatever happens to Occupy, he said, participants from Baltimore and across the country can already point to accomplishments. He noted the support the Baltimore group has received from local police and fire union leaders who have told Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to “stand down.” He also mentioned the various polls that suggest significant numbers of Americans support the views of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
“The national discourse has already changed. A few months ago, no one was talking about income inequality and these major structural problems with society and now you hear it everywhere,” Rogalski said. “People ask what we want to be changed – we’ve already changed it.”