PORTLAND — City officials have set a 12:30 p.m. Thursday deadline for Occupy Maine to respond to the City Council’s denial of a permit to allow the protesters to continue to camp at Lincoln Park this winter.

On Friday, City Manager Mark Rees sent a three-page letter to John Branson, the group’s lawyer, notifying Occupy Maine of the deadline. The group’s options include disbanding the encampment, obtaining a restraining order through the courts or seeking a new permit that satisfies city codes.

The group has been camped at the park, with the city’s permission, since October.

The City Council rescinded its permission Wednesday following several incidents at the park, including many arrests, fire and public safety problems and the behavior of some of the campers. The encampment also violates a city ordinance that bans staying in public parks between 10 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.

Nicole Clegg, city spokeswoman, said Rees sent the letter after a meeting with Mayor Michael Brennan, interim Police Chief Michael Sauschuck and Branson on Thursday. City officials decided to give the protesters a week to decide their next move.

The city has pledged to give the campers a written notice of 48 hours for any order to remove their tents and other structures. Clegg said any order to leave would not be made until after the Thursday deadline.

Occupy Maine protesters are scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. today at Lincoln Park to decide their next course of action.

Branson said the City Council’s denial of any permit for the encampment that involves a variance or waiver from city codes shows why continued assemblage is necessary.

He said the city routinely issues waivers and variances to corporate and commercial developers and for commercial activities in the city, such as city-sponsored rock concerts in Monument Square.

The law enforcement issues at Lincoln Park pale in comparison to those around the bars in the Old Port, the scene of frequent bar fights, he said.

“We are passionate about this issue, and we have a long way to go,” said Branson.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

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