PORTLAND — Dressed in everything from face paint to gorilla suits, about two dozen protesters marched through downtown Portland on Monday in support of the Wall Street protesters who have occupied the financial district for weeks.

It was one of several local protests nationwide that reflected the weeks-long action on Wall Street.

Protesters beat drums and chanted, “We got sold out. Banks got bailed out,” and “Tax the rich,” as they marched peacefully for more than a mile from Monument Square to the University of Southern Maine.

Some pedestrians stepped aside to let them pass on the sidewalks and, occasionally, drivers honked their horns in support.

One small-business owner said he joined the protest because of economic injustice.

Benjamin Hider wore a plain white mask and held a sign reading “99 percent,” to reflect a struggle between the masses and the 1 percent who are the “rich controlling this country.”

“I wear the mask to represent many people,” said Hider, who runs a job search website. “I want to raise awareness of the situation. I would like to see 1,000 people (here).”

Nearby, a woman gyrated with a hula hoop while David Bruenjes of Portland stood on top of a concrete post and juggled flaming torches, with a sign around his neck that read, “Stand with us before they force you down.”

Amanda Parkhurst of South Portland dressed up in a gorilla suit for the protest march. She pulled a wagon carrying her young daughter, Garcia, who was dressed up as a ladybug.

“I was actually going to go down to New York, but this is more convenient,” she said. “Not everybody can drop everything and occupy Wall Street.”

The Portland group actually started its protest on Saturday, setting up a tent in Monument Square despite rainy weather. The protesters have been there ever since, although one was issued a summons for setting up a tent without a permit.

The tent remained until Monday. The protesters removed it when police asked them to take it down.

On Monday, several police cars remained on the periphery of the square, but there were no arrests there or during the march.

City spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said Portland prohibits structures in public spaces without city permits, which are free.

Clegg said city officials told the protesters they could not stay in Monument Square overnight, and suggested they move to Lincoln Park if they wanted to stay overnight.

The Portland group has no official leaders, but some members seemed to speak on the group’s behalf. Josh McKibben, an activist from Vermont who came to Portland to join the protest, said the group intended to stay in Monument Square around the clock for an indefinite period despite the ban on overnight use.

Events planned in the square this week include Wednesday’s farmers market and this month’s First Friday art walk.

“This has been a peaceful demonstration,” Clegg said. “Our intention, offering Lincoln Park, was for a more appropriate site. They have the right to assemble, but with respect to businesses and abutters.”

Organizers were still trying to decide Monday evening if they would move to the park. “We’ll still be holding a contingency here,” McKibben said, hoping to have at least a few people remain in Monument Square during the night.

OccupyMaine had received more than 1,600 likes on Facebook as of Monday afternoon. It is an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations that began in New York City last month.

According to Occupy Together’s website, there are now local groups in nearly every state and in Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe and Mexico.

 


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