PORTLAND — Occupy Maine demonstrators who’ve camped out in Portland’s Lincoln Park since October told a state judge today that their occupation is protected political speech.

“It is a symbol of our movement,” said Alan Porter, an unemployed tree cutter who has lived in the park since Oct. 5. “Without it, we probably would have disappeared. Without the park, we wouldn’t have a presence.”

The city of Portland is seeking to evict the occupiers, arguing that overnight camping is not allowed in the park and that camping is not political speech.

Oral arguments and testimony are being presented today in Cumberland County Superior Court before Judge Thomas Warren. Supporters of Occupy Maine are seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent its removal from the park.

The issue has attracted considerable media attention. Thirteen members of the media are in the courtroom covering the hearing, which is expected to last all day.

Mark Dunlap of the Portland firm Norman Hanson and DeTroy has been hired by the city to argue the case.

Occupy Maine is the state’s only demonstration allied with the Occupy Wall Street movement that hasn’t dissolved. A group that camped out at Augusta’s Capitol Park lost a fight in federal court and a group at the Bangor Public Library voluntarily left at the library’s request.

In Portland, campers are protesting economic disparity and corporate greed. The city, which told campers to leave on Dec. 15, has raised concerns over disturbances and sanitation at the park.



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