December 7, 2011

ACLU throws weight behind Occupy Maine

Councilors vote tonight on a request by protesters to continue using Lincoln Park.

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine has come out in support of Occupy Maine’s position, urging the city of Portland on Tuesday to let the protesters remain in Lincoln Park.

The City Council is expected to decide tonight whether to approve Occupy Maine’s request for a permit that would allow the protesters to continue camping in the city-owned park. The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

“There is nothing more important for our democracy than freedom of expression,” said Shenna Bellows, executive director of the ACLU of Maine, in a prepared statement. “We urge the city of Portland to set a positive example for cities across the country by allowing this demonstration to continue without disruption.”

In its letter to the City Council, the ACLU notes that one of the city’s objections to the group is that the camp is an eyesore. The ACLU says that, given the group’s message about the growing gap in wealth and political power, the ACLU believes it is appropriate that the demonstration cause some discomfort.

Zachary Heiden, the ACLU’s legal director, plans to attend tonight’s council meeting.

“The First Amendment sets the floor, and not the ceiling, for free speech activity,” Heiden said. “Portland can and should find a way to accommodate this group that respects their right to speak out on important matters of public concern.”

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at dhoey@pressherald.com

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