PORTLAND – Another rash of violence at the Occupy Maine encampment in Lincoln Park has added to the safety concerns of protesters and city officials, who will consider next week whether to limit — or even eliminate — overnight camping at the site.
Five people were arrested and a 40-year-old man was hospitalized after four separate violent incidents in the park between early Thursday morning and 2 a.m. Friday.
Occupy Maine protesters said that, although those arrested may have been living in tents in the encampment, they weren’t actively involved in the movement.
City officials say the incidents highlight the lack of control both protesters and police have over who sleeps in the park — an activity that’s prohibited in Portland.
That ordinance hasn’t been enforced for members of Occupy Maine, who started setting up tents in early October to protest the power of corporations and disparity of wealth in America.
Although Portland officials initially supported the protesters’ right to assemble, some city councilors started calling for the encampment to be dismantled after outbreaks of violence last week, which included a protester being hit on the head with the blunt end of a hatchet.
Occupy Maine will decide Sunday whether to apply for a permit that would continue to allow overnight camping in the park, but limit the number of people who sleep there.
The permit would be considered by the City Council’s Public Safety Committee on Thursday and then by the full council on Dec. 7.
For City Councilor Ed Suslovic, a permit wouldn’t be enough to ensure the safety of the campers.
He wants to see the tents removed.
“Unless someone comes up with a solution I haven’t heard of yet, I fail to see how this is going to be sustainable,” said Suslovic, chair of the Public Safety Committee.
The latest string of incidents began early Thursday morning, when a 20-year-old Portland man reported that he was punched and kicked to the ground after refusing to leave the park for not being part of the Occupy Maine movement.
Peter Wing, 49, who has no fixed address, was arrested and charged with assault and violation of bail.
Around 6 p.m. Thursday, a 40-year-old Portland man arrived at the Portland police station with injuries to his face. He said he was assaulted in Lincoln Park, where he had been drinking beer in a tent when an argument broke out. The man was taken by ambulance to Maine Medical Center.
No one was charged in the incident, which remains under investigation.
At 11 p.m. Thursday, a fight in the encampment’s kitchen led to the arrest of Alyssa Brame, 30, who has no fixed address, and Gabriel Williams, 33, of Portland. Brame and Williams, who were reportedly punching and slapping each other, were both charged with domestic violence assault. Williams was also charged with possession of cocaine.
Another report of domestic violence around 2 a.m. Friday led to the arrest of Jason Carr, 25, of Athens, and Melissa Ciaramitaro, 18, who has no fixed address. Carr, who was charged with disorderly conduct at the camp a week earlier, was allegedly choking Ciaramitaro in a tent. He was charged with domestic violence assault.
Police then arrested Ciaramitaro on a charge of disorderly conduct, because she wouldn’t stop screaming after Carr’s arrest.
All five people arrested remained in Cumberland County Jail on Friday evening.
Randy Santa Cruz, an Occupy Maine protester, said he and others at the encampment had suspected some of those arrested would end up causing trouble and had been monitoring them closely.
He was glad to see them taken away from the park, not to be allowed back.
“We’re worried about our image,” he said. “That’s not what we’re about.”
Although there’s no way for members of the Occupy Maine movement to tell others they can’t sleep in the park, Santa Cruz said, he hopes people know that violent and disruptive behavior won’t be tolerated.
Portland police Commander Vern Malloch said the protesters have been cooperative with police and noted that three of the four recent incidents were reported by members of Occupy Maine.
“It speaks to the protesters’ desire themselves to maintain a peaceful atmosphere,” he said. “Clearly, it’s not enough.”
Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at