PORTLAND, Maine — About a dozen members of OccupyMaine gathered in Monument Square late Wednesday afternoon to celebrate George Washington’s birthday, saying America’s first president would have supported their right to call for an overhaul of the government.
OccupyMaine members have vocally denounced what they’ve described as an unfair influence on government and politics by deep-pocketed corporations. Many turned out in support of a largely symbolic Portland City Council resolution last month supporting a constitutional amendment abolishing “corporate personhood,” the freedom of wealthy corporations to express themselves through unfettered political spending as allowed in 2010 by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Opponents of the decision have argued that corporations, with access to nearly unlimited funds, can drown out the voices of individual citizens.
Wednesday’s Occupy rally, the group stated in a news release, was meant to “honor … George Washington’s legacy of respect for the unalienable rights of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government whenever justice so requires.”
The small but enthusiastic rally came more than a week after the demonstrators ended more than four months of camping out in nearby Lincoln Park, and attendees said the showing proves that the movement will soldier on without its signature tent community. OccupyMaine put down its stakes in Portland in early October as one of many nationwide satellite protests in solidarity with the New York City-based Occupy Wall Street.
At the time the last local occupiers left the park on Feb. 10 — after the city turned down a request to let them stay and a Cumberland County Superior Court judge denied an injunction that would have prevented the city from evicting them — OccupyMaine was the longest-standing occupation in the country.
Now occupiers produce regular television programs that are broadcast on the Internet and Portland’s community TV station, meet for regular Sunday “community conversations” and still hold periodic general assembly meetings. The group uses office space at the Meg Perry Center on Congress Street and members who turned out Wednesday said their messages about unfair wealth gaps, environmental stewardship and corporate influence on government remain important.
With OccupyMaine, said member Danielle Gauvin, 32, “I’m not the only one that has a voice, that has gripes and problems with how the government is running.”
“Me being raised in poverty, I don’t want to see my kids raised that way,” she said. “I want a brighter future for them.”
Fellow occupier Sam Swenson, 38, said Mainers who support the movement must focus on local and statewide changes to promote economic equality.
“I’m joining with others to reclaim our democracy,” Swenson said. “We no longer have control of our politicians.”