Occupy group plans Bel Air stop

November 15, 2011|BY ALLAN VOUGHT, avought@theaegis.com

A small group associated with the Occupy social and economic protests on New York's Wall Street is expected to stop in Bel Air late this week or over the weekend, the town's police chief said Tuesday evening. The Occupy movement has also staged a camp-in a few blocks from Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

Calling itself Occupy the Highway: The 99% March on Washington, the group expected in Harford County set out from New York on foot with the intention of walking to Washington, D.C., where it plans to arrive by Nov. 23, according to website occupywallst.org/article/occupy-highway-99-march-washington.

The arrival date is set to coincide with the day Congressional committees are expected to take up an extension of the so-called Bush tax cuts, which the Occupy movement claims benefit only 1 percent of the U.S. population.

According to reports by The Washington Post, which has a reporter following them at washingtonpost.com, the group numbered 21 when it left New York Nov. 9.

Bel Air Police Chief Leo Matrangola said, however, that he saw a video of what he described as a "calm group" taken in the Philadelphia suburbs Tuesday that showed about a dozen marchers surrounded by 30 other people "milling around," whom Matrangola described as counter-protesters, onlookers, media and the curious.

During Tuesday evening's town commissioners and staff work session, Matrangola said he was notified the group is following Route 1 south and wants to camp in Bel Air overnight before it moves on to Baltimore. He said the group will probably arrive in Bel Air Friday or Saturday.

Matrangola said the group expects to stop in Rising Sun in Cecil County before moving south to Bel Air. He said Rising Sun is planning to let the group stay in that town's only park. The Bel Air chief said he plans to send some staff to Rising Sun "to see how cordial they are to law enforcement."

He also said the group should be encouraged to stop and move on quickly, but no decision was made where, or if, the group will be allowed to stay in the Bel Air town limits. One person at the meeting did, however, mention the small Plumtree Park about two blocks from the Harford County Courthouse.

Matrangola said someone in the group tweeted about staying in Rocks State Park, which several of the other town officials said would suit them fine, since the state park is some 10 miles north of town. They also doubted if the state would permit them to camp there.

"Our goal should be to make them feel welcome here, but also to welcome them to Baltimore," the chief said. "We'll know more Friday."

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