Tonight, the Portland City Council will consider OccupyMaine’s petition to keep its tent community in Lincoln Park for at least another six months. Since last Thursday, when the city’s Public Safety Committee voted to recommend against accepting the group’s request, OccupyMaine has made amendments to the terms of its request in an effort to make the stay more hospitable to city officials.
City safety inspectors had previously sought documentation from OccupyMaine to ensure it had a strategy for staying safe during the upcoming winter season.
But group members, many of whom have been camped out in Lincoln Park for more than two months now as part of a larger Occupy movement, aren’t coming to City Hall strictly with hat in hand.
In the hours leading into the meeting, OccupyMaine attorney John Branson submitted to the city a redress of grievances, a document in which the group makes four demands of the municipality:
- Withdraw all city funds from TD Bank and transfer those funds to a locally owned bank or credit union.
- Develop methods for increased direct democracy and public engagement, including, as a starting point, making the State of Maine Room [at City Hall] available for a weekly City of Portland General Assembly that would develop proposals and recommendations for consideration and action by the City Council.
- Increase support for homeless people in Portland including those who have come to live in Lincoln Park. Begin by working with homeless people in Lincoln Park to get them into housing and address other needs that they have.
- Create a 24-hour free speech and assembly space in Monument Square where people can assemble at any hour to engage in non-commercial First Amendment activity.
Over the life of the movement, Occupy groups everywhere have been criticized for being directionless or unclear about what they want accomplished. In a general sense, occupiers consistently decried corporate influence on government — particularly by large banks and Wall Street firms — and the growing divide between the rich and the poor.
With this list of four specific demands, the local branch of the Occupy movement hopes to put an end to some of those aforementioned criticisms. The demands were agreed upon during the group’s Sunday night general assembly, a town meeting-style event in which the encampment democratically does its business.
OccupyMaine member Brian Leonard told me this evening he knows the redress of grievances may have been submitted too recently for the City Council to respond to it at tonight’s meeting, but he said he and other members of the public will reference the document and its demands during their opportunities to address the governing board.
“This is a beginning,” Leonard said. “These are initial requests. We’re starting here, just as the city started with their demands of us. Flame retardant tarps are not the issue of the day. We decided we needed to bring [the conversation] back around to our focal point.”
The redress of grievances:
Here’s the group’s updated petition to remain in Lincoln Park, to be considered tonight by the council: