How Occupy Baltimore Can Get Its Mojo Back

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Last week, amid a welter of thumb-sucking front-page stories about the Ravens and their fans published in advance of Sunday’s AFC Championship game, The Baltimore Sun unveiled a revealing account concerning backstage whispers this past fall among local businesspeople and various city officials as the administration of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake groped to devise a policy to deal with the Occupy Baltimore protesters during their weeks-long encampment in downtown’s McKeldin Square. 

Key players: deputy mayors Kaliope Parthemos and Christopher Thomaskutty, mayoral spokesman Ryan O’Doherty, Rawlings-Blake’s chief of staff Peter O’Malley, and, tellingly, T. Rowe Price chairman Brian Rogers.

Looking down on Occupy’s makeshift tent town from his adjacent office aerie, the newspaper reported, Rogers grew increasingly exasperated with the group’s presence, ultimately firing off what, on the surface at least, sounds like a peevish complaint to Parthemos: “Is it legal to live/camp in a city park? There’s a difference between freedom of speech and what I see every day.”

Or, perhaps, more to the point, what he heard daily: numbing, interminable jams by Occupy’s resident drumming circles. Who can blame Rogers for beseeching the city to pull the plug, so to speak, on the relentless thumpa-thumpa-thumpa? The sound would drive anyone cuckoo. And not to put too fine a point on the matter, but anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that drumming circles, to date anyway, have not promoted a redistribution of the nation’s wealth, Occupy’s chief hobbyhorse.      

Evicted from the comfy confines of McKeldin Square, Occupy Baltimore joins its similarly ousted sisters and brothers in other municipalities as a laudable movement gradually fading from the news — a movement that, in order to achieve sustainability, might benefit from a reality-TV-style extreme makeover, or maybe just a nip-and-tuck. Begin with the music. Now that the infernal drumming has mercifully been silenced — given the fact that protesters no longer occupy any actual real estate — Occupy needs a theme song, a pre-existing anthem that seizes not only the imagination of its collective constituency, but also, more important, the fickle ears of the media. 

While Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” and Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” spring to mind immediately, none seems suitable to the purpose — too earnest, too dour, or too long. Better to choose something snappy, something fist-pumping, something with an insidiously memorable hook. Something that will induce the media — TV, newspapers, blogs — to embrace, with renewed ardor, the Occupy cause. Something like Twisted Sister’s 1984 hit “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

(Incidentally, Rolling Stone reports that dozens of musicians — including Lucinda Williams, Yo La Tengo, Crosby and Nash, Jackson Browne, Willie Nelson, Yoko Ono, Debbie Harry, and Third Eye Blind — will contribute tracks to a compilation entitled Occupy This Album, scheduled for release this spring. Too late!)

Conjure in your mind’s eye hundreds of thousands of Occupiers singing in unison the Twisted Sister lyrics, “We’ll fight the powers that be/Just don’t pick our destiny/’Cause you don’t know us, you don’t belong” outside this summer’s Democratic and Republican national conventions. Bring back harlequin-esque frontman Dee Snider as an amiable friend of the movement. (He boasts the requisite credentials; in 1985, he offered persuasive testimony before a 1985 Senate committee investigating allegedly objectionable pop-song lyrics.) Adapt the song for get-out-the-vote drives. Endless possibilities. 

Act now, Occupy. Do not dither. My invoice for rebranding consultation is en route.  

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