AUGUSTA — Occupy Augusta protesters who vow they will be arrested rather than leave Capitol Park won a week-long reprieve from police orders to get out.

A federal judge issued an order Monday that will allow protesters to remain in the park for at least another week.

Attorney Lynne Williams filed a motion Monday in U.S. District Court in Bangor on behalf of some Occupy Augusta participants, seeking a temporary restraining order to stop Capitol Police from closing down the Occupy Augusta encampment. The park is owned and managed by the state.

Williams also sued the state Department of Public Safety, saying requiring protesters to get a permit is unconstitutional.

She said Judge Nancy Torresen ordered a one-week “step back” and the protesters will be allowed to remain until a hearing next Monday in Bangor.

Maine State Police spokesman Steve McCausland said the state agreed to take no action against the Occupy Augusta encampment for a week, as long as members agreed to no longer have fires in the park.

Capitol Police Chief Russell Gauvin told Occupy participants Friday that they had to apply by Monday for a permit to continue protesting in the park. If they didn’t, police would remove them and their tents, he said.

That didn’t sway some Occupiers, who said Monday that they will be arrested before leaving or applying for a permit.

“We’re staying,” said Demi Colby of Gardiner, one of the roughly 15 people who have camped out across the street from the State House regularly since October. “At this point this is my home. I gave up everything for this cause.”

She said several others planned to stay despite police orders.

Colby said protesters shouldn’t have to apply for a permit to exercise the right to free speech guaranteed by the Constitution.

Even if the Occupy group got a permit to protest, they would no longer be allowed to camp in Capitol Park, said McCausland.

“It is time for the encampment to end,” McCausland said Monday. “Their right to protest is likely to be approved. But we ask they abide by the same requirement any other group would have to abide by, that they apply for a permit.”

Ed Bonenfant, a protester from Augusta, said he won’t leave the park and is looking forward to getting arrested.

“As soon as the removal starts, the arrests start. That is when we’ll get a lot of support in the community,” Bonenfant said. “It helps the cause.”

On Sunday, nine protesters were arrested on the grounds of the governor’s residence, the Blaine House, across State Street from the park.

McCausland said that until the Blaine House incident, the protesters and police had “a very cordial working relationship.”

 

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Keith Edwards can be contacted at 621-5647 or at: kedw[email protected]