It is unfortunate that the discussion about the Occupy movement in Maine and across the nation has shifted from the underlying causes of the protests to First Amendment issues concerning peaceful assembly.

It is even more unfortunate that federal judges across the nation are rendering decisions that limit citizen’s rights of peaceful assembly. In Maine, Federal Judge Nancy Torresen ruled that “The state may impose reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on conduct or speech protected by the First Amendment.”

Claiming such authority will guarantee confrontations in further protest actions across the nation leading up to the major party political conventions this summer. With the increased levels of “acceptable” police violence exhibited in Occupy evictions elsewhere, larger crowds protesting at this summer’s political conventions will lead to further violations of their human rights.

Peaceful protest is the cornerstone of our democracy. Suppression of that protest will cause heightened unrest and unnecessary casualties to Americans exercising their First Amendment rights.

The Occupy Augusta Maine protests maintained the model of peaceful assembly and nonviolent actions by constant communication within the group as well as respectful daily communication with the authorities.

It was this daily communication with the Capitol Police that developed trust on both sides and maintained the encampment as a safe and orderly environment. Supporters and inquisitive visitors alike who entered the encampment consistently commented about its healthy environment.

As it became obvious that the protesters would be forced to leave the public park or “common ground,” a group decision was made to perform a tactical retreat to save the donated belongings, as well as avoid pointless arrests and the media circus surrounding other evictions nationwide.

Where has President Barack Obama been the last three-plus months while the Occupy protests and violent evictions have occurred?

During the Arab Spring uprisings, the Obama administration was quite clear in its support of the Egyptian people’s right to peacefully protest against the U.S.-backed government of Hosni Mubarak.

On Jan. 28, Obama released a statement that said, “I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters. The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. And the United States will stand up for them everywhere.”

On Nov. 22, at a High school in Manchester, N.H., President Obama was mic-checked by the high school’s Occupy members. After some discussion, the protesters agreed to let the president continue if he would accept a note from them. The note read, “Mr. President: Over 4000 peaceful protesters have been arrested, while banksters continue to destroy the American economy. You must stop the assault on our 1st amendment rights. Your silence sends a message that police brutality is acceptable.”

To date, the president has not responded to the students’ request.

Obama’s desire to raise millions from Wall Street to support his 2012 re-election campaign has weakened his resolve to protect American human rights and the Occupy protesters from police brutality. By siding with Wall Street insiders since his election, he has alienated the progressives in his own party and proven to be a DINO (Democrat in name only).

Recent references in political speeches to Occupy positions do little to address the larger issue of the brutal suppression of the protests. The president must address this issue and return police conduct to post-Kent State federal court mandated conduct guidelines when handling nonviolent protest.

If the left sits out the 2012 election like it did in 2010, the president will not be re-elected — no matter how much money he spends.

Lew Kingsbury of Pittston was a member of Occupy Augusta.

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