PORTLAND, Maine — OccupyMaine protesters worked Tuesday to insulate their tents, set up portable heaters and buy extra thermal socks as they vowed to stick it out in a city park for the winter months ahead.
While police have been evicting protesters in New York and other cities, demonstrators in Maine are hunkering down. Close to 60 tents are now set up in Lincoln Park, with many people placing hay bales around their tents and tarps over the top for insulation to ward off the cold to come. Some have brought in portable kerosene and propane heaters.
In a place like Portland, which averages 62 inches of snow a year, it takes a lot to prepare for winter. Angelique Banks, 38, and her boyfriend have insulated their tent with blankets, tarps and a fly. They’ve placed hay bales at the base of the tent and have a portable kerosene heater at hand.
“There’s a lot of gearing up for the weather change,” said Banks, who has been here for weeks. “Winter’s hard. It’s cold. There’s lots of snow and ice.”
Heather Curtis, 42, is looking forward to the snow. Camping in winter will help members gain a better understanding of what the Occupy movement is all about, she said.
“I think it’s a really wonderful way to gain clarity on what is essential for survival, both physically and emotionally and mentally, and what is just a creature comfort, gravy kind of extra,” she said. “Where is the substance and the real sustenance?
“I think that is going to be a really positive exercise that those of us who stay here for the winter are going to go through.”
OccupyMaine is an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement, with members protesting what they see as economic injustice and corporate greed. Hundreds of police raided the Occupy Wall Street encampment in New York City early Tuesday, evicting demonstrators and demolishing the tent city that was the epicenter of the Occupy movement.
The Lincoln Park encampment has grown steadily since the first tents went up six weeks ago. Maine’s first snowfall, in late October, dumped more than 5 inches in Portland, serving as a wake-up call for what winter can bring in Maine.
Some people scurried out of Lincoln Park to shelter for the night when the snow collapsed their tents. But the encampment has continued to grow as tents spread across the park.
On Tuesday, people hammered together wood frames to place over their tents and put hay bales in place. Others configured their tents to help preserve heat. Curtis showed off the new thermal socks she bought at a local discount store.
John Schreiber, 27, is an experienced winter camper who has been advising others on the ins and outs. He admits it takes a special kind of person to camp in the snow and cold.
“They’re called Yankees,” Schreiber said.
In Augusta, roughly six to 10 tents have been up in Capitol Park on any given night, said Capitol Police Chief Russell Gauvin.
In Bangor, protesters have been camping out in about 10 tents on library land next to Peirce Park, said Occupy spokeswoman Sunny Skye Hughes.
Many members plan to keep camping through the winter, she said. The first night of the encampment, Oct. 29, brought 7 inches of heavy, wet snow.
“It’s a very challenging task to maintain a 24/7 encampment,” said Hughes, who is not camping out full-time because she has two young children at home. “But the occupiers’ ability to maintain the encampment speaks a lot to their motivations and desires to put their bodies where their mouths are.”
In Portland, city officials received a plan Tuesday from OccupyMaine explaining how protesters will stay safe and warm in the winter.
Later this week, city officials will inspect the park to determine if there are any violations of city ordinances or public safety or health concerns, city spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said.