Bangor library board votes to allow Occupy Bangor protesters to keep camping out

Ray Peck of Hudson helps with setting up a communal tent at the Occupy Bangor encampment on the grounds of the Bangor Public Library on Monday, Oct. 31, 2011. Although camping in Peirce Memorial Park is prohibited, a handful of Occupy Bangor activists have been camping on the adjoining grounds of the libray since Saturday night.
Kate Collins | BDN
Ray Peck of Hudson helps with setting up a communal tent at the Occupy Bangor encampment on the grounds of the Bangor Public Library on Monday, Oct. 31, 2011. Although camping in Peirce Memorial Park is prohibited, a handful of Occupy Bangor activists have been camping on the adjoining grounds of the libray since Saturday night. Buy Photo
By Ryan McLaughlin, BDN Staff
Posted Nov. 01, 2011, at 6:34 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Occupy Bangor protesters who have camped out overnight on Bangor Public Library property since last weekend have expressed their views peacefully thus far, according to library officials. As a result, the library’s board members on Tuesday voted 6-2 not to adopt a policy that would prohibit the demonstrators from camping out on library property after 10 p.m.

Occupy Bangor protesters spend their daytime hours in Peirce Park, which is next to the library, but a city ordinance prohibits them from being on park property after 10 p.m. No such curfew exists for the library.

Norman Minsky, chairman of the library’s board, along with library director Barbara McDade, said that approximately 904 people visited the library on Monday, compared with 750 four weeks ago.

“There’s been 30 phone calls since 11 this morning, and all 30 support the library’s decision,” said Minsky. “Things can change, and the library will adapt if necessary.”

McDade said demonstrators have been careful to set up their tents away from the library’s children’s area.

“So far Occupy Bangor has been very cooperative. Anything that we have asked them to do they have done it,” said McDade.

McDade cited the First Amendment right to freedom of speech as a major reason the board decided not to pursue adopting a policy.

“We do believe deeply in the First Amendment, so they do have the right to share their views with the public,” she said.

Sunny Hughes, a member of the media team for Occupy Bangor, said the demonstrations have been well-received thus far.

“I think it’s been very peaceful,” she said. “We haven’t had any complaints at all. We’re still in regular communication with the city.”

McDade also noted that the demonstrators’ daytime activities don’t take place on library property and that patrons shouldn’t have any fear about walking past occupiers.

In fact, the protest provides area children a fantastic learning experience, she said.

“More than one person has told me they come with their children and it’s a very teachable moment to tell their children these are people that are protesting something they think is wrong, and this is how we do it in the U.S.,” McDade said.

Occupy Bangor is part of a national grass-roots movement designed to call attention to the continuing economic problems faced by 99 percent of the population who are poor and middle class, according to organizers.

Minsky and McDade said that if things do get out of hand, they will take action quickly.

“We do have the right to maintain calm and peace and so forth on our property,” said Minsky. “We do have the right to maintain order in the library and on library property.”

“If we hear any intimidation, we will go out and ask them to stop,” McDade said. “If they do not stop, we will call the police and ask them to be escorted away for trespassing.”

Hughes said the Occupy Bangor protesters intend to remain camped out for “as long as it takes,” and that a family day is being planned for Saturday.

Things were relatively quiet around the Occupy Bangor camp on Tuesday afternoon after the board meeting, at which no demonstrators were present.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/11/01/news/bangor/bangor-library-board-votes-to-allow-occupy-bangor-protesters-to-keep-camping-out/ printed on December 18, 2014