Baltimore didn't have problems with its Occupiers on the scale that other cities did, perhaps because the encampment in the Inner Harbor was relatively small — just 40 or so people by the time of the raid, with only a fraction of those from a core group of dedicated protesters. Nonetheless, it was becoming increasingly clear that the leaderless, everybody-welcome ethos of the camp was becoming counter-productive. A woman was recently stabbed there, oddly enough, in a dispute about a cat. And organizers acknowledged that the difficulties posed by the wide variety of people attracted to the camp, and their wide motivations for being there, had taken away from the mission of drawing attention to the problems posed by the nation's growing income inequality. A core group of protesters had already been meeting to discuss alternative governance structures to maintain a focus on the issues that drew them to the camp in the first place, and the eviction should only facilitate that process.
On the contrary, the longer the encampments went on, and the more spectacular their clashes with police when cities finally sought to clear them, the less likely they were to broaden the movement's appeal. Because of the peaceful way Baltimore's encampment ended, protesters here may have a better chance than most to make a successful transition into a more mainstream political movement. Many Occupiers may find the idea of becoming a mainstream political movement to be an anathema, but it is the way change is accomplished in this country.
Elections are coming next year, and all-time-record percentages of Americans say they want to throw all the bums out of Congress. But that won't happen unless viable candidates stand up to provide an alternative, and unless a grass-roots movement of the public provides them the support to get elected and holds them accountable once they're in office. The Occupy movement has the chance to be a force in 2012 just as the tea party movement was in 2010. It is time, as one of the Occupy Baltimore protesters said on his way out of McKeldin Square this morning, for Phase II.