On December 7, 2011, the Portland, Maine City Council will hold an open hearing on the future of the camp at Lincoln Park. The City deserves praise for not resorting to violence and threats in dealing with the people who have been camping in the park for two months. It seems that the city and the Portland police have respected the right of protestors to exercise free speech and have exercised understanding and patience while much of the rest of the country has resorted to violence and brutality on innocent citizens.
However, I believe the city has legitimate concerns about health and safety issues at the camp such as the danger of fire. Smoking and the use of propane heaters in proximity to bails of hay and straw surrounding tents is a tragedy waiting to happen. Concerns about cleanliness in the preparation of food is also another legitimate public health concern.
Serious discussion about the future of the encampment has been ongoing for two weeks and many of the occupiers are resigned to being evicted. Before it comes to that, it would be best if the occupiers would leave on their own and seek a compromise with the city to allow the dome, library, and an information tent in Lincoln Park as a focal point for the protest and a visible symbol of the movement.
Unfortunately, all of the attention by the media has been on the camps and violence while the core messages of corporate greed, political corruption, and the crimes committed by Wall St. and the banks have been ignored.
The fact that occupiers of the camp are mostly homeless people says more about the city’s homeless policy than it does about the Occupy movement. Most of the 99% live at home; we work, raise families and pay our bills. The park should be available as a focal point for the exercise of freedom of speech and public discourse on the state of the union.
Not everyone is talking about the camp. Here’s what some of Maine’s 99% had to say on Sunday in a strategy sessions looking to the future of the movement.