PORTLAND, Maine — The number of Occupy Maine members camping out in public parks in Portland and Augusta is growing.
About 30 tents can be found at Lincoln Park in Portland, where members have been sleeping at night. During the day, many of them can be found at nearby Monument Square holding signs and expressing frustration over the nation’s financial and political systems.
In Augusta, campers have been staying in the state-owned Capitol Park.
Shane Blodgett, 21, said the group at Lincoln Park has grown since he arrived more than a week ago. Blodgett, who was taking college courses before deciding to take time off to participate in the Occupy Maine movement, said the group still needs “a lot more motivated people.”
“I feel the need to be here,” Blodgett said. “I’ve been waiting my whole life for something like this and now it’s finally come about where people are working together, they’re cooperating, they’re building something new. It’s what I’ve been saying since I was kid — I’ve been saying something needs to change, something needs to change.”
Occupy Maine began as an offshoot of an Occupy Wall Street demonstration, which started last month in New York City. In Portland, participants first held a demonstration on Monument Square to share their opinions on what they view as financial and governmental systems in desperate need of repair.
City officials told Occupy Maine supporters they couldn’t camp in Monument Square, but offered to let them stay in Lincoln Park, a few blocks away. Since then, the number of tents and campers has grown, with the tents now taking up about a quarter of the 2.5-acre park.
The group has a communal kitchen where food is kept under a large tarp and cooked on a camping stove and a propane grill. One of the tents is filled with blankets, sleeping bags, jackets, tarps and other items that were donated by supporters.
The site is tidy, with cardboard signs asking people to pick up after themselves.
On Thursday morning, the men and women who have been calling the makeshift camp their home swapped conversation, rolled their own cigarettes and cooked pasta for a midmorning meal. They said some drunks came through the campsite the previous night and knocked over some of the tents.
While campers will tell you there are people with jobs and homes who have been staying at the site, there are also a number of homeless people, including 26-year-old Bob Delrymple, who spent his first night in the park on Wednesday after moving from a homeless shelter.
“I’m here because I believe in what they’re doing,” he said.
Others are hesitant to give their names, saying if they speak as individuals it’ll detract from the message of the group as a whole.
One man who has been part of Occupy Maine from the start gave his name as “Kassper,” which he said was his military name while he in the Marines. Kassper shows up daily at Monument Square behind a folding table from which he distributes information about the group.
A number of the supporters in Maine since have joined other Occupy groups in Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, he said.
“I’m the only one left here from Day One,” he said.
In Augusta, between two dozen and 40 people have been camping out in Capitol Park, where Capitol police have given permission for them to stay.
Paul McCarrier of Belfast, one of the campers, said participants “span from right-wing libertarians to left-wing liberals who are all in discontent with the government.”
He said most of the people there have jobs, but they are underemployed with part-time jobs or work that provides insufficient income.
Hillary Lister of Athens said supporters are donating rain jackets, tarps and food. Asked how long they’d be there, Lister said only, “We’re planning on staying.”
Associated Press writer Glenn Adams in Augusta contributed to this report.