OccupyMaine blasts ‘ritzy’ Obama fundraiser gala, plans impromptu soup kitchen outside

Can’t afford to break bread with the president tonight? OccupyMaine will be serving soup outside.

Occupier John Schreiber holds a sign supporting OccupyMaine last fall in Monument Square. (BDN file photo by Seth Koenig)

Covering OccupyMaine over the past six months, I can say there’s very little that makes participants in the movement angrier than money in politics. Occupiers came out en masse in mid January when the Portland City Council discussed — and passed — a resolution supporting a U.S. constitutional amendment bucking the 2010 Supreme Court decision protecting freedom of speech for corporations, giving rise to unfettered campaign spending by wealthy companies.

Over several on-site interviews with OccupyMaine members over the months, I definitely got the message that occupiers have a real problem with the idea that big money influences government action more than the interests or needs of the less wealthy citizenry.

President Barack Obama waves to the crowd after speaking about health care reform during an event at the Portland Expo Center, in Portland, Maine, Thursday, April 1, 2010. (AP file photo by Alex Brandon)

So when President Barack Obama scheduled a pair of fundraiser events in South Portland and Portland today — where tickets to get in ranged from $44 for students at the afternoon Southern Maine Community College speech to reportedly $10,000 for donors who want to meet and get pictures taken with the commander in chief at the Portland Museum of Art in the nightcap — OccupyMaine rose again.

The demonstrators are no longer visible in a tent community in Lincoln Park, which was dispersed after a somewhat brief legal tussle with the city of Portland, but they’ve stayed busy organizing events and broadcasting a regular community access television show.

Tonight, coinciding with Obama’s second stop at the Portland Museum of Art, occupiers are planning to set up a soup kitchen outside in an attempt to highlight the disparity between those who can afford to rub elbows with the president and those who can’t.

In a play on the term “SuperPAC” — the new brand of uncapped Political Action Committees growing from the soil of the Supreme Court’s aforementioned 2010 ruling — OccupyMaine is calling tonight’s demonstration its “Soup-or-PAC.”

“President Obama is holding a ritzy fundraiser at Portland Museum of Art,” reads an OccupyMaine announcement, posted to Facebook. “While he is having his dinner for the 1-percent inside, we’ll be serving ‘soup dinnah’ for the 99 percent on the streets. We are having soup line! Bring your soup spoons, empty stock pots and signs! Make some noise!”

It should be an interesting night in Portland. In case you missed it, rap legend Snoop Dogg is also performing nearby in a pair of shows at The State Theatre, and a Boston Bruins Alumni team is taking on a squad of Maine high school standouts in a charity game to benefit the Portland Firefighters’ Association.

Click here for alternate traffic and parking information if you’re coming to Portland tonight for something other than the president’s visit. Here’s that same map, clipped as a handy tool from the Cumberland County Civic Center website (where the hockey game is taking place starting at 7 p.m. tonight):

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.