Occupy Baltimore protesters say they're reluctant to appoint an official spokesperson because they believe they all should have equal standing. Even as they set up what they consider to be their own government — complete with a General Assembly, daily meetings that last for hours, and multiple committees with their own meetings and objectives — there is some rancor in the movement about who speaks for what.
Some protesters in McKeldin Square seemed just as agitated over what they deemed a splinter group affiliated with Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse in Mount Vernon as they were with Wall Street and big banks.
Protester Robert Brune, 46, of Columbia, said members of the splinter group, called an affinity group, helped organize the Occupy Baltimore protests but have not continued to camp overnight at McKeldin Square. He said they hold their meetings off-site but make up much of the movement's committee leadership.
"This group appears to have a top-down perspective and lacks any real transparency in their decision-making process," Brune wrote on a blog post on the Occupy Baltimore website.
A member of the Red Emma's collective noted in an email that there are several smaller groups that participate with the Occupy Baltimore movement or that "pop up from time to time."
At a General Assembly meeting Tuesday night, protesters couldn't reach much consensus about how to respond to the city — except to reject the proposal that only two people stay in a tent overnight — and ultimately voted to table most of the issues discussed.
There have been precedents of camping as a legitimate form of protest, the ACLU's Rocah said.
He pointed to the Bonus Army of 1932, which created a tent city in Washington to protest federal policies, and the camping in 1968 as part of the Poor People's Campaign against economic injustice organized by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Rocah said the city's rules don't completely prohibit camping, just camping without permission. He said it's not clear whether the city could reasonably justify not granting the Occupy Baltimore protesters permission to camp there.
"It's clear the government has a right to set rules on where, when and how protests can occur," Rocah said. "But it's also true that not every rule is one that the courts are prepared to accept. Preserving people's right to protest in the way they wish is one of the tenets of the First Amendment."
Baltimore Sun reporter Julie Scharper contributed to this article.