Newly elected Mayor, Michael Brennan, in his first city council meeting said, “The issues here are deep enough…that we should continue to go the extra mile” in keeping the dialogue open between the city and Occupy Maine.
Mayor Brennan also said, “We are not interested in being Oakland. We are not interested in being New York. We are interested in respecting the citizens in this city who are trying to articulate legitimate concerns about our economic situation.”
While the city council voted 8-1 to deny Occupy Maine a permit to occupy Lincoln Park 24/7 for the next six months, all expressed their belief in the rights of free speech, peaceable assembly, and agreed with many or most of the concerns of the movement.
Unlike other cities and the University of California Davis that have unleashed police in riot gear to forcibly evict Occupy protestors from public places, the City of Portland, Maine is exercising patience and tolerance of the Occupy Maine encampment in Lincoln Park. The council could have ended the Occupy Maine encampment immediately.
Councilor John Anton summed up the dilemma between the right of free speech and peaceable assembly and the city’s obligation to enforce local ordinances when he said, “I believe we do our best work as a council when we are challenged out of our comfort zone. That’s what you are doing and I’m willing to take that challenge.
That is precisely what the Occupy Movement is all about: moving people out of their comfort zones by the encampment, the protests, and yes…civil disobedience. Councilor David Marshall broke ranks with his fellow councilors by casting the only “yes” vote in favor of granting Occupy Maine a permit. In doing so, he said, “I respect the opinions of my colleagues in wanting to uphold the ordinances of the city, but I’m going to uphold the right to peacefully assemble.”
And that is the question that will eventually be settled in the courts: does the United States Constitution trump local ordinances?
And so, for now, the City of Portland, Maine will continue to work with Occupy Maine to find a solution and to go the extra mile. In doing so, Maine has become a model for the rest of the nation.