PORTLAND — It took most of the day, but members of the Occupy Maine encampment in Lincoln Park agreed Sunday night to apply for a city permit that, if approved, would allow the demonstrators to remain in the park through the winter.

About 50 people gathered for a community meeting Sunday afternoon to discuss issues that included a demand from city officials that the group apply for permits to remain in the park.

The group’s General Assembly debated the permit issue until 8:30 p.m., when consensus was finally reached.

John Branson, a Portland attorney who is also a member of Occupy Maine, said he will submit the permit application to the city by Tuesday’s deadline.

Members of the General Assembly will meet one final time tonight to decide on the terms and conditions they’d like to include in the permit before Branson files it.

Issues such as the placement of tents and application for a food license to keep the encampment’s kitchen in operation could be incorporated into the permit.

“There was some concern that we would be giving up our First Amendment rights by applying for a permit,” said Heather Curtis, a Portland resident who has been sleeping at the encampment for three weeks. “And there were those who had concerns that this would be the first step in the process of eviction.”

But Curtis said a majority of members seemed to believe that applying for the permit would not only satisfy city requirements, but allow demonstrators to more effectively manage who could live at the encampment.

The City Council’s Public Safety Committee will review the group’s application at its Thursday night meeting before making a recommendation to the full council, which is expected to consider the permit at its Dec. 7 meeting.

“If the permit is denied, I am still going to be sleeping here,” Curtis said.

Sunday’s meeting followed a night without disturbances in the park, according to police, who had made several arrests in or near the encampment last week.

“I think they’re planning on pushing us out on the safety issues alone,” said Alan Porter, 45, who has been living in the camp since mid-October.

“They even want to limit the number of people in the camp, which is against everything we stand for,” Porter said before the meeting. “I believe our days are numbered. I say we (leave) peacefully. But I know there are some who want to stay until the police come.”

Occupy Maine is part of an international movement against corporate greed and socioeconomic injustice that started in mid-September with demonstrations on Wall Street in New York City and in San Francisco.

Portland officials initially supported the protesters’ right to assemble, though municipal ordinances ban sleeping in public parks. They began calling for the camp to be dismantled last week, after a few assaults associated with the camp led to five arrests.

If the group decides to break camp, Porter and others anticipate returning to the park in the spring.

However, not everyone staying in or visiting the park is affiliated with Occupy Maine, so some may remain even if the group decides to leave.

“We can’t stop people from staying here,” said Brian Leonard, 42, of Portland, a group member who hasn’t been spending nights in the camp.

At Sunday night’s General Assembly meeting, several members debated the merits of moving their nightly meetings to Monument Square, with one member saying the public believes Lincoln Park is a “scary place.”

Branson said members are growing frustrated with the media attention being focused on the arrests and disturbances at the camp instead of the demonstrators’ message.

Moving the meetings to a public place like Monument Square might help counter some of the negative publicity and invite more members of the community into the discourse, the group said.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

[email protected]

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]