PORTLAND — Occupy Maine protesters who have camped in Portland’s Lincoln Park since October told a judge Tuesday that their occupation of the park 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 protesters, arguing that the park is closed after 10 p.m. and that camping is not political speech. Occupy Maine has “essentially taken over a public space,” said Mark Dunlap, a trial lawyer hired by the city to argue the case.

Occupy Maine is seeking a preliminary injunction to allow the encampment to continue until the judge or a jury makes a final determination on the case.

The group must show that the injunction would serve the public interest and that there is a substantial likelihood it will succeed on the merits of the case. Cumberland County Superior Court Justice Thomas Warren did not say when he will rule, except that he won’t decide in the next two days.

If it loses, Occupy Maine could appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.


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

In Portland, the campers are protesting economic disparity and corporate greed. The city told them to leave on Dec. 15, but officials said they would not move to evict them until the court case is resolved.

Tuesday’s hearing was held in a courtroom that overlooks Lincoln Park. The protesters’ tents are visible from the courtroom’s windows.

A witness for the city, Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson, said she looks at the park all day from her office in the county courthouse. She said the protesters were more active in the fall; winter weather has caused most of them to abandon their tents. “Now there is no one there, except maybe one or two people,” she said. “For the most part, it looks like a municipal dump.”

Dunlap said Occupy Maine lacks a coherent message and city officials worry that someone in the encampment will die from hypothermia.

He said government has the right to put reasonable restrictions on the place and manner of political demonstrations, and Occupy protesters in cities across the country have yet to persuade a court to allow them to maintain an encampment in a city park.


John Branson, the attorney for Occupy Maine, said Portland’s case is different.

Unlike Occupy encampments in other cities, he said, Occupy Maine has accepted the fact that the city has the right to regulate its encampment and has worked with the city to make sure it follows health and safety rules.

Also, he said, other cities have parks in which protesters could stay overnight, but Portland has no such parks.

He said Portland’s ordinance prohibiting people from being in the park between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. is intended to discourage loitering – and the protesters are not loitering.

Rather, they are participating in a “grand effort to make the country and the community a better place,” he said.

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