BANGOR, Maine — The Bangor Public Library board decided Thursday that, due to insurance liabilities, it must ask Occupy Bangor members to remove their tents, which went up Oct. 27 on library land, director Barbara McDade said Friday.
“We certainly will allow them to use the property to protest, but we don’t want them staying on the property 24 hours a day,” she said. “We’re supportive of the First Amendment, both freedom of assembly and freedom of speech” and “we certainly believe that they have the right to inform people of their views.”
McDade informed Occupy Bangor members of the decision even as they continue discussions about ending their six-week encampment at Peirce Park, member Lawrence Reichard said Friday.
“We have to leave by 8 a.m. Monday,” he said. “The reason is liability and liability insurance. Their insurance carrier wouldn’t cover anything involved with the encampment. The library would be exposed financially and the library would be held accountable.”
Peirce Park is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and protesters have used adjacent library land, which is not city property, during times the park was closed.
The library board held a lengthy discussion on Thursday and then voted to ask the Occupy Bangor members to pack up their tents for liability reasons, McDade said. Thursday’s meeting was an emergency session held to discuss the insurance problem, and plans are for the board to consider updating library policies at its next meeting, she said.
The Occupy Bangor group also has refused to apply for a city event permit that city officials requested more than two weeks ago, saying their activities are not an event but instead a First Amendment assembly.
“We declined to fill out the permit and they haven’t enforced it,” Reichard said. “The permit cost $25 and lasts three days. They [city officials] said just pay it once and you won’t have to pay it again. When we took it to the general assembly they said, ‘No, we’re not going to fill out an event permit because we’re not an event — we’re an assembly.’”
Reichard said the library and McDade, whom he described as “an ardent supporter of the First Amendment,” have been wonderful during the encampment. The possibility of the Occupy Bangor members getting their own insurance has been discussed but was dismissed, he said.
“The encampment, even before this, was facing difficulties with winter coming,” he noted.
Members are discussing other options to keep their message alive, even if the encampment is disbanded.
Members of the group met late Friday afternoon to discuss what their next moves might be during a general assembly at the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine, but have yet to make any definitive decisions, member Kimberly Hamel said Friday night.
Options being considered range from relocating the encampment to another site to pulling up stakes and changing the focus to other means of getting the message out, she said.
As Occupy Bangor members contemplate what direction they group will take, they are keeping an eye on what is happening with their counterparts at encampments in Maine, the United States and the world, she said.
The conversation will continue at a general assembly at 5 p.m. Saturday at either the park or the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine, Hamel said.
“Obviously, the Occupy fight is a long, long way from being over,” Reichard said. “We hope and intend for it to remain interesting. We don’t think we’ll win this fight by playing a dull game.”