BANGOR — Occupy Augusta advocates argued in federal court today that the state’s permitting process allows authorities “unfettered discretion” in isssuing or denying permits to use Capitol Park.

They’re seeking an injunction preventing Capitol Police from evicting protesters who have camped in the Augusta park since October.

Judge Nancy Torreson said today that she expects to decide whether to issue the injunction within about 48 hours.

Attorney Lynne Williams — representing James Freeman, of Verona Island, and Diane Messer, of Liberty, and other Occpuy Augusta participants — said the encampment across from the State House is an essential part of protesters’ message and thus a protected form of speech. She said the state’s permitting process gives authorities too much discretion in approving permits for protests and other events.

Assistant Attorney General Paul Stern argued that the state has well-established rules in place which require a permit to use the park, and which also ban staying in the park overnight. He said the state has the right to set reasonable conditions on the time and place for protests.

Capitol Police Chief Russell Gauvin said the state issues about 50 permits a year to use Capitol Park and has only denied three applicants since he started with the department in 2006.

 

 

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