Council Denies OccupyMaine Permit & Expects Lawsuit; “The City is Forcing Us To Go To Court,” Attorney John Branson

OccupyMaine Attorney John Branson With Zachary L. Heiden, Legal Director for ACLU of Maine. It Supports Approving the OM Amended Petition.

By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,037)

Around 11:30 last night, the city council voted, 8 to 1, not to approve OccupyMaine’s amended petition filed with the city on December 5, 2011 which the Council requested from the group. The dissenting vote came from councilor David Marshall who called it a “protest” vote. He encouraged both parties to continue talks over the matter.

Prior to the council discussion, 53 people testified at the special meeting, with only 5 people testifying against the petition in the five hour televised meeting. Their testimony put a human face on what has been mostly a parade of statistics provided by the city and led by the obtuse criticism of Public Safety Committee chair Ed Suslovic. Proponents of the amended petition poked several holes in Acting Police Chief Suschuck’s stastics that showed a significant increase in service calls to Lincoln Park since the occupation began in early October. Alan Porter testified that it wasn’t until Milestone Foundation, a rehab facility on India Street and near the Park encampment closed down temporarily, that the requests for service calls increased. Credible sources at the Park have repeatedly claimed that police officers told Milestone clients to go to the Park for food and shelter. “Feed the needy – tax the greedy,” said Don Kimball.

“Our founders had it right. This protest has made an impact not seen before. Our politics have been overtaken by money. The early Patriots didn’t have to get permits,” said Malory Shaugnnessy.

Several councilors favored postponing consideration of the permit application to allow additional dialogue between the two parties. However, councilor Duson, preferred to vote on it immediately because we know where this is headed – to the courts – let’s find out what we are dealing with now,” she said. Only councilor Marhsall did not agree with her and voted accordingly.

Chris O’Neil, Portland Community Chamber of Commerce, one of the five who supported the denial of the amended petition, said: “…deny the permit and end the occupation now and let the courts decide if it comes to that.”

And it may well come to that. Following the council meeting, Branson said: “We are not in an exclusive movement. I’ts the most inclusive group I’ve ever been in. It is likely we will need to file a complaint and a restraining order. We just need to determine which court to file it in. The city gives the general assembly no choice since only two councilors have expressed interest in continuing to talk about it. The other seven aren’t interested.”

Mayor Michael Brennan voted not to grant the amended petition, but did express hope that the parties could continue to talk anyway. (He was the second councilor Branson referred to above.) To that end, Brennan, corporation counsel Gary Wood and Branson are meeting this afternoon at city hall.