BANGOR, Maine — The Occupy Bangor movement has overstayed its welcome in Peirce Park.
City officials on Wednesday sent a notice to organizers of the protest directing them to remove “event canopies, the fire apparatus and all other associated equipment, structures and items” from Peirce Park by 10 p.m. Thursday.
“We’ve tried to be reasonable, but this is not an appropriate way to use our park,” said City Manager Cathy Conlow. “There’s a blue tarp, canopy tent, firewood pile, clothesline. They’re storing stuff on that site. It’s gone past what we consider a reasonable interpretation of use of that property.”
All items not moved by Occupy Bangor members will be removed by city workers and stored at the Bangor Parks and Recreation Department facility on Main Street.
The notice addresses several concerns that have arisen since the protest first occupied Peirce Park on Oct. 29. Among them, it says, are that many of the canopies or tents on park property alongside Harlow Street have “developed into essentially storage areas … to support the camping activity that is happening on private property.”
Occupy Bangor representatives suggested they will resist the city’s order.
“We’re requesting a meeting with city officials at 9 a.m. [Thursday] and we’re having a press conference at 10:30 in the morning,” said spokeswoman Sunny Skye Hughes. “Our position is that we intend to defend Occupy Bangor and the space we’ve created for public dialogue and peaceful public assembly.”
“I’m a member of Occupy Bangor’s legal team and have participated in two meetings with city officials,” said another spokesman, Lawrence Reichard. “They said in no uncertain terms that we could be there during the day and we could leave up structures intended for day use 24 hours a day.”
The city notice, from Bangor Parks and Recreation Department director Tracy Willette, states that “city policy and protocol has been to allow event canopies and other event-specific equipment to stay on site for the duration” of an event. It defines an event as one that may last up to three days.
“There was no mention of a three-day cap,” Reichard said. “They repeatedly asked us how long we intended to stay and we said repeatedly we intended to stay indefinitely. I personally believe that there is a nationwide rollback of Occupy movements.”
The notice says city staff members have concerns about what is being stored in the park under canopies, “which have been enclosed with a variety of tarps not manufactured to be part of the tent.”
“The number of complaints is increasing and people feel like they can’t use the park at all. Our parks aren’t storage areas,” Conlow said. “They’ve never been actually camping on the park site, and this is how we’d treat anyone using the park.”
Willette also said in the notice that he has been on the site on two different occasions and has been unable to find an Occupy Bangor organizer. That is not a common occurrence with other events that are held on city property, he said.
“This notice is based in what we have for city policies and the desire of staff to keep our city parks open for people to use freely and openly,” said Willette.
Conlow said she had spoken with a Bangor man who regularly walks and runs in the park but no longer feels he can exercise there.
Barbara McDade, director of the Bangor Public Library, where the protesters have been allowed to camp out, said she has received complaints and also has heard from people supporting the Occupy Bangor demonstrators.
“So far there are still more people who have been supportive of the movement have talked to me than have been against it. We have not asked them to leave,” McDade said. “They cleaned up today and moved some tents around to make it more presentable, which I appreciate very much. Anything we ask them to do they have done.”
“The library board is also watching what’s going on in New York, in light of legal action, as well as other areas across the country and any legal decisions resulting from it.”
The Occupy Bangor movement was inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City.
“We’ve been patient with this, but this isn’t New York City,” Conlow said. “We haven’t allowed anyone to violate our ordinance.”
Hughes said Occupy Bangor will decide its specific “defensive strategy” during a 5 p.m. meeting Thursday.
“We consider Occupy Bangor an assembly and are exploring all our legal options at this point,” she said.
Occupy Bangor will hold a protest at noon Thursday to show solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. More than 300 “We Are The 99%” events are planned for Wall Street and in cities nationwide.
“I think the 1 percent is concerned,” Reichard said. “I’ve been politically active since I was a child in the 1960s and never seen a movement for social change grow this fast as this has in a matter of two months.”