If you were looking for the Occupy Maine movement to get an eviction notice from the Portland City Council Wednesday night, you went home disappointed.

The same was true for the people who wanted to see the council issue a permit that would let the protest group remain for the next six months in Lincoln Park as a self-governing unit, in charge of its own safety and security.

The City Council denied the permit but did not order a forced evacuation of the park. Some on both sides would say councilors did nothing, but for many in the city the council took a responsible step, keeping the conversation open and leaving open the option of a peaceful settlement to this situation.

If that is going to occur, the occupiers will probably have to accept something less than their demand for a permanent 24-hour-a-day “free-speech zone” in the heart of downtown.

Even those who see the fact of their encampment as a crucial element of their political statement recognize that permanent and exclusive use of a public park by a single group, even if well-intentioned and inclusive, cannot remain forever.

The council’s vote was not a victory for those who want an immediate end to the occupation — they are going to have to accept something less than what they have demanded.

Those who believe the encampment is bad for Portland’s image should think the issue through. If having tents in a little-used park that does not border any homes or businesses is bad for the city’s image, what would nationally televised images of a police eviction do for it? That’s not the kind of image Portland wants to present, and it’s not the kind of action most city residents want done in their name. That’s true even for those who are concerned about the health and safety problems that come from so many people living for so long in a place without the infrastructure to support them.

The Occupy protestors have one more card to play by filing a lawsuit, but so far the courts have not been friendly to their arguments. That means that this will ultimately be decided by the city and the protestors.

On Wednesday, several councilors made the point that Portland is different from Oakland, Calif., where police used violence to remove protestors and the protestors fought back. That doesn’t need to happen here, and it won’t if the protestors continues to engage in dialogue with city officials.

Portland Mayor Michael Brennan said that some of the group’s grievances can be addressed by the city, independent of the overnight camping dispute.

There are ways this movement can keep spreading its message, even if its methods have to change.