PORTLAND — Occupy Maine demonstrators are expected to vote Sunday night on whether the group should apply for a city permit for their encampment at Lincoln Park.

The permit is viewed as a compromise that would allow the encampment to remain through the winter months, but on a much smaller scale.

City officials met with members of the group Monday to discuss a series of arrests and other safety issues that have come up in recent weeks. The two sides agreed that Occupy Maine would have better control over who is involved in the protest if operated under a city permit.

That permit would limit the number of people involved in the protest, the number of tents and where those tents could be located. The permit application would be subject to a public hearing and approval by the City Council.

John Branson, a Portland attorney and member of Occupy Maine, said demonstrators have decided that the permit issue should be discussed every night this week during their general assembly meetings in Lincoln Park.

Those meetings, which are run by a facilitator, occur every night at 6 p.m. Permit discussions will culminate Sunday night with a final vote, Branson said.

“The general assembly is going to consider these questions (about the permit) with an eye toward staying true to their principles but keeping in mind the city’s concerns as well,” Branson said.

He said Sunday night’s vote will be preceded by a community discussion – scheduled to begin at noon – revolving around the future of the encampment. The public is invited to participate.

Protesters said the idea of applying for a permit got a good reception at a general assembly meeting Monday night, but Branson said the group felt it should try to involve as many people as possible, which is why it decided to continue its deliberations through Sunday.

If the group does not apply for a city permit, it could withdraw from Lincoln Park and use other means to convey its message about perceived corporate greed and the unequal distribution of wealth in this country.

Occupy Maine could also “try to dig in and defend its right to remain on First Amendment grounds,” Branson said.

Protesters still must meet with code enforcement officials to address code violations. The city has said it wants tarps, semi-permanent structures, and bales of hay and leaves piled around the base of tents removed.

 

Staff Writer David Hench contributed to this report.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]