AUGUSTA — About 30 people planned to spend a second night in Capitol Park on Sunday as Occupy Augusta settled in for an indefinite stay.

From a peak of about 100 protesters in the park and on the State House steps Saturday, the group shrank to a core of 40 who camped overnight, then met Sunday morning in a general assembly to set up committees and start drafting “points of unity” outlining key issues.

“From there, it was people getting together some logistics and digging in for what we will hope will be a long occupation,” said Paul McCarrier, 25, of Belfast, who spoke on the group’s behalf.

One role Occupy Augusta had to fill was a liaison to work with the Capitol Police and Augusta Police Department.

People organizing events in the park are supposed to apply for a free permit, Capitol Police Chief Russell Gauvin said.

“They do not have a permit, so technically they’re in violation,” he said. “(And) we don’t typically allow people to stay overnight. But we’ve decided at this point to not enforce that violation.”

McCarrier said the demonstrators decided not to obtain a permit as a statement of their rights to free speech and peaceable assembly, especially on public land.

Gauvin said he and other officials at the Department of Public Safety saw a need to balance the exercise of rights with enforcement of the law.

“They were very reasonable to talk with, and essentially at this point we’re taking it as a day-by-day basis,” Gauvin said. “There hasn’t been any criminal conduct or any damage. They’ve been very respectful of the property, and as much as they can they’re minimizing their impact down there.”

Gauvin authorized the demonstrators to build a small campfire and asked that they rent portable toilets so they would not need to use bathrooms in the surrounding buildings.

“We hold the right to change our minds should things not go well,” he said.

There are two large, open-sided pavilions set up in the park where demonstrators can eat or make signs, as well as several smaller tents.

Augusta police received at least one complaint about drumming in the park on late Saturday afternoon, and McCarrier said the demonstrators will silence the drum after dark or if neighbors complain.

The next step for Occupy Augusta is to identify a handful of key issues for the diverse movement and write up concise statements that can be distributed to policymakers and passersby.

The group will direct its attention to “those institutions that are keeping us in poverty,” McCarrier said.

“These things aren’t going to go away, so people who care about these such issues are going to be out in this public space to raise awareness of the things that are going on,” he said.

Susan McMillan — 621-5645

[email protected]


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