PORTLAND — The state’s largest nurses union voiced its support for the Occupy Maine protesters today and delivered a load of blankets and other supplies to the encampment in Portland’s Lincoln Park.

Occupy Maine is linked to the Occupy Wall Street movement and is protesting a system they say benefits the wealthy and corporations at the expense of others.

Cokie Giles, president of the Maine State Nurses Association said the union advocates for similar goals as the protesters: livable wages and universal health care and education.

“We feel very close to the people who are here and in Augusta and in Bangor,” said Giles, a nurse at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, referring to the three cities where Occupy Maine protests have sprung up.

A half-dozen nurses and supporters stood in a circle behind Giles in Monument Square holding signs reading “Heal America – Tax Wall Street.”

There was initially no sign of protesters – a lose knit group of people whose numbers swell and shrink from day to day – when the nurses press conference was scheduled to start at noon. A handful of protesters did arrive a short while later.

Members of National Nurses United, a union representing 170,000 nurses across the country, has set up nursing stations in other Occupy protest sites, Giles said, including Chicago where she said volunteers were arrested.

The Maine group brought blankets, long-john underwear, hats and mittens to distribute to the protesters in Portland.

“It’s very important for these people to stay safe…We want people to get out of the elements,” Giles said, suggesting that protesters alternate between staying outside and getting inside where it is warm and dry. She also urged them to seek immediate medical attention at the first signs of frostbite, which can have lifelong consequences.


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