PORTLAND — City officials notified Occupy Maine on Thursday that its encampment in Lincoln Park must be removed by noon Monday unless the protest group, as it has promised, files a federal lawsuit against the city before then.

John Branson, a lawyer representing the group, told the city Tuesday that a lawsuit to continue the encampment will be filed by noon Monday, according to city officials.

Thursday’s letter to Branson aimed to satisfy the city’s promise to give Occupy Maine at least 48 hours’ notice before removing any tents, personal belongings or people from the public park.

The city also issued a notice to vacate the park, which says that all structures and belongings must be removed by noon Monday.

“We’re following a process,” said Mike Sauschuck, acting police chief. “In order for them to take this issue to court, they need to be formally noticed to vacate the park.”

Branson didn’t respond to several calls for comment Thursday, so it remained uncertain what the group will request in its lawsuit.

Even if Occupy Maine does not file its suit by Monday’s deadline, the city has no plan in place to carry out the removal of people, tents or belongings from the park, Sauschuck said.

“We’re in a holding pattern at this point,” he said.

Members of Occupy Maine have been camping in the park since early October, as part of an international movement against corporate greed and socioeconomic injustice.

The City Council recently denied the group’s petition to remain in the park, after several violent incidents related to the encampment.

On Tuesday, a woman who got in a scuffle in the park was charged with domestic assault and a bystander was charged with criminal threatening, Sauschuck said.

City ordinance prohibits people from being in the park from 10 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.

Mayor Michael Brennan said the city is working with Occupy Maine so the group can go to court and learn whether the encampment qualifies as protected free speech under the First Amendment.

“We are putting them on notice,” Brennan said. “We recognize they want to go to court. They need certain notice from us in order to do that. We want to allow them to have the opportunity to have their day in court.”

Staff Writer Ann Kim contributed to this story.

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

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