OccupyMaine Petitions City Council For “Designated 24-Hour Speech & Assembly Zone” in Lincoln Park; Goes to Public Safety Committee 12/1/11 Before City Council on 12/7/11

OM Resident Jason Cook: "We are asking the city to recognize our first amendment rights."

By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,028)

Late yesterday afternoon a contingent of OccupyMaine, “OM”, representatives accompanied John K. Branson, its pro bono attorney, to the city hall where it filed its petition to remain at Lincoln Park for the next 179 days, with the right to seek renewal.

By way of background, OM has occupied Lincoln Park since October 3, 2011. It was organized two days earlier in solidarity with OccupyWallStreet. On November 21st, OM representatives and city officials met at city hall where it was proposed that OM file a petition for a permit to the city to continue its occupation 24/7 of Lincoln Park. At its general assembly on Sunday evening, OM voted to file such a petition with the city – which was accomplished late yesterday afternoon.

The seven page petition calls for a designated area at Lincoln Park for use as a “perpetual free speech, assembly and community building zone on a 24/7 basis by members of the public seeking to engage in such activities, subject to certain terms and conditions established by the City.” The “designated area” is to the south and west of the concrete walkway from Congress Street through the fountain area of the Park. The number of permitted tents would be as many as can be erected in the designated area and the number of occupants limited to the number that could safely remain there (respecting the 10 ft. restriction between tents); which contrasts the proposal in corporation counsel Gary Wood’s letter of November 23rd to John Branson. Wood called for a specific number of tents with a specific number of occupants.

Wood’s November 23rd letter to Branson stated: “No hay or pallets allowed on Premises. If the Council approves the use of an insulation material for that purpose in City parks, City staff and building inspections will need to review a specific plan describing the type of material and how it will be contained as how it will be fixed in its location……” Branson responded in the November 29th petition: OM would replace any hay or hay bales that are not certified as flame retardant and fire safe with hay and/or hay bales that have been treated to be flame retardant and/or other insulating materials that meet the applicable fire….” Big John, one of OM’s chefs said that “the city is trying to get rid of us by taking away all the things that will keep us warm during the cold weather. The city expects us to hire architects and get blue prints and spend lots of money on fees we don’t have. They want to intimidate us,” he said about the November 23rd letter from Wood to Branson.

Jason Cook, one of the OM members who accompanied Branson to the city hall yesterday afternoon to file the petition said: “This is a groundbreaking day because we are asking the city to concede to certain issues as we will be making concessions for the health and safety for which the city has legitimate concerns and we agree with them. We are asking the city to recognize our first amendment rights,” Cook said.

For more background, please see Post # 1,027, dated November 27, herein.