BANGOR, Maine — After two hours of impassioned debate, participants in the Occupy Bangor movement deferred a decision on the fate of its encampment at Peirce Park.
The matter will be revisited during a general assembly set for 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5, a majority of the roughly 25 people in attendance agreed through a show of hands.
Among the questions Occupy Bangor activists are grappling with is whether a collection of tarp-covered tents set up in the shadow of Bangor Public Library is helping to advance — or detract from — the group’s overall goals.
The point of the week-long hiatus is to provide participants adequate advance notice before a decision is made.
Monday’s discussion about the camp’s future came up with less than a day’s notice, participants noted during a meeting held around a fire pit set up on a paved section of the park. As a result, some members who felt strongly about the encampment weren’t able to attend.
Among the concerns raised by Valerie Carter, Sunny Skye Hughes and others were that the number of regular campers has dwindled to about half a dozen and with winter coming, the effort to keep them safe, warm, housed and fed will become increasingly difficult.
They were among those who wondered Monday night if it was time to move on to other means of getting their message out and bringing about change, including teach-ins, legislative initiative and some of the other tools at members’ disposal.
Carter said she was concerned about the toll an extended occupation could have on campers who are students, have family or have jobs. She suggested that if the decision is to keep the occupation going, it might make sense to rotate campers so that they would stay there in shifts.
“We may not have to be limited to all-or-nothing thinking,” Carter said.
Chris DeRoche and Conrad Cook, who have been living in the encampment, countered that the encampment is vital to the Occupy Bangor movement.
Cook said that to abandon the campsite would amount to throwing away the weeks the group spent working to convince the city to allow them to stay in the park in the first place as a freedom of speech issue.
DeRoche acknowledged that the campsite got off to a rocky, unorganized start but that improvements are being made to camp operations and that a winter-worthy tent has been ordered.
Regardless of the group’s vote, however, some of those who have been camping at the park since Oct. 29 intend to continue to do so.