PORTLAND — By late Friday, Lincoln Park was just a park again, the last of the Occupy Maine tents and belongings having finally been removed.

A small core of demonstrators worked through the day Friday to dismantle the last of the unoccupied campsites, dragging debris to a city-provided Dumpster and piling wooden pallets that had once supported tents.

They were philosophical about the end of Maine’s longest running encampment, which after four months was ordered by city officials to vacate.

“Some people are saying what we’re doing is disgraceful or is a blight or we look like ‘a municipal dump,’ ” said Sam Swenson, taking a break form the cleanup. “The fact we had so much support from so many different people in our community showed our message really does matter.”

Occupy Maine formed as an outgrowth of the Occupy Wall Street movement, intended to draw attention to economic inequity and excessive corporate influence. But over the months, public criticism grew and the city’s patience wore thin, with city councilors voting against a permit which would have allowed the demonstrators to stay.

Eight public services workers arrived at the park, between Federal and Congress streets, at 1 p.m. Friday with a loader, which they used to top off one 30-yard dumpster and start in on another one they had brought with them.

The city’s deadline for moving out was postponed from a week ago, to Monday and finally to Friday, which was intended to give demonstrators a chance to pack up and reduce the likelihood of confrontations.

“I think the city of Portland is very pleased with the progress of the movement here,” Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said Friday at the park, referring to the efforts to clean the area.

Sauschuck said the four officers were there as a precaution and to make sure nobody was hurt as the heavy equipment was in use.

Earlier, at the northern end of the park, a group of young people arrived at lunchtime and tossed a Frisbee under a brilliant sun. A pair of walkers strode deliberately around the perimeter.

There were as many as 70 tents arrayed in the park at one point, though the number of people staying there fluctuated.

The last two tents belonged to people who were homeless and had not participated actively in the demonstrations.

A solitary man packed his tent and all his belongings onto a shopping cart and made his way slowly out of the park. The other, a larger tent, had four people — an old man, a middle-aged woman, a young man and a young woman — as well as at least one dog. They waited until public service workers and four police officers arrived before they started loading the belongings into a parked car.

The only confrontation was sparked when the young man started arguing about being filmed by television cameras as he broke down the camp. The woman said the officers were the same ones that rousted them from camping in the woods.

Sauschuck said city caseworkers had been visiting the park over the previous week, working to find housing for people who didn’t have any. Some campers said they recently had found apartments.

Longtime protester Deseree Tanguay wheeled a load of clothing and blankets, which had been donated to the demonstrators, to a nearby soup kitchen to be donated to others.

James McMann embarked on his own protest at midday Friday, carrying a flag and a sign that read: “Occupy Maine should clean up the park, not Portland taxpayers.”

McMann, who said he lives in Kennebunkport and works in the Portland area, said he agrees with people’s right to protest, but not when they are disrespectful of public property.

“What they’ve done is just not right,” he said.

The city had tolerated the demonstrators, providing inspections to identify health and safety issues that needed to be addressed. But as the winter wore on, city officials grew weary.

Several arrests, including charges of aggravated assault and criminal threatening, showed the encampment had become a magnet for more than just political activists. Troublemakers and the homeless had found a welcoming community in the park.

City Manager Mark Rees, who initially had encouraged the protesters to move out of Monument Square and over the Lincoln Park, said in December that the group would have to apply to the City Council for a permit. The council turned protesters down, citing many unmet health and safety issues as well as concern that the park was no longer available for others’ enjoyment.

Rees opted not to force the demonstrators out until a Superior Court judge ruled last week that while the encampment was a form of political speech, the city’s ordinance prohibiting camping and loitering in parks between 10 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. was not unconstitutional.

Palma Ryan said she appreciated how more tolerant the city was of the demonstrators than some other cities, where violent confrontation erupted as police sought to dislodge camps. However, she said the city also was passive and not as encouraging as it might have been.

The Occupy protesters said their movement doesn’t evaporate with the dismantling of the cmap, that they have office space, will do more protests and may be back in the spring.

“It’s not the end. It’s new beginnings,” said Deese Hamilton. The group planned a rally at Monument Square today at noon and on Sunday, a rededication of Lincoln Park.

“There’s going to be a lot more activism now that we don’t have to maintain a camp,” said Jen Rose.


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