AUGUSTA, Maine — Nine members of the Occupy Augusta movement were arrested Sunday after a group of people jumped the fence surrounding the Blaine House and unfurled a banner that read “End corporate rule now” on the portico.
The arrests are the first in Maine in connection with official Occupy activities, although several people have been arrested on charges of violence at the OccupyMaine camp in Portland.
The protesters took to the grounds of the governor’s residence after a demonstration in Capitol Park, where the protesters have been camping for a month and a half. The protesters called the day’s activities “civil disobedience” and accused the LePage administration of bowing to pressure from the federal government to disband the encampment.
All nine arrested were out on bail Sunday evening, according to the Kennebec County jail. Members of the group told the Bangor Daily News they were planning a rally for the next day, but that those arrested would not continue to camp in the park in order to comply with bail conditions.
The nine people charged with criminal trespass and failure to disperse were Gregory M. Fahy, Patricia L. Messier, Jenny M. Gray, James H. Freeman, David J. Page, Elizabeth A. Burke, Dianne H. Messer, Kimberley G. Cormier and Michael J. Reynolds.
Messer was the Democratic candidate for Maine Senate in District 23 in 2008 and was arrested in September of this year during a protest in Washington D.C. Fahy is an professor of philosophy at the University of Maine at Augusta. Freeman has been arrested a number of times while protesting, according to BDN records, including in 1992 for painting red hand prints on a replica of the Santa Maria, in 2007 during an anti-war protest in Bangor, in 2009 while protesting the Plum Creek development project and in 2010 while protesting the Rollins Mountain wind project. He has been cleared of all those charges.
Approximately 15 protesters were initially on the Blaine House property, but there were several who left the property when asked by Capitol Police and were not arrested, according to Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.
The protesters were warned twice. They were first asked to leave the property, which many did although some came back. Some were escorted off the property. Those who refused were arrested.
“Nobody was rough with us, nobody abused us,” Messer, of Liberty, said Sunday shortly after being released. “They treated us humanely but they called out every troop you can imagine.”
McCausland estimated that at least 20 officers from the Capitol Police, Maine State Police, Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office, Augusta and Hallowell police departments, and the Maine Warden Service were involved and said the number was “appropriate with the situation at hand.” The officers responded to a call for assistance from the initial officers at the scene.
The protesters were scheduled to meet with the chief of the Capitol Police on Monday morning to talk about finding a way to keep the encampment in Capitol Park, which could include applying for a permit. That meeting is still expected to happen, but the protesters said they would not seek a permit.
“Their law on assembly is defunct,” said Freeman of Verona Island, one of the protesters who was arrested. He said the courts have struck down laws on the books regarding assemblies and that the group plans to file an injunction in federal court Monday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Correction: An earlier version of this story contained the wrong number of people arrested. According to the Kennebec County Sheriff's Office and Occupy Augusta members, nine people were arrested at the Blaine House on Sunday, not eight, which was reported by Public Safety Department Spokesman Stephen McCausland.