AUGUSTA – The Occupy Augusta movement may no longer live at Capitol Park, but the members are still meeting and talking.

The group held a general assembly Saturday at the park, and Greg Fahy of Hallowell was one of those who showed his support by attending.

Fahy, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Maine at Augusta, said he has nothing but admiration for the group, which was evicted from the park after nearly two months of occupation.

U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Torresen ruled Dec. 8 that although the Occupy Augusta “tent city” was protected by the First Amendment, the state was within its rights to place reasonable restrictions on the time, place and manner of the protest by requiring the occupiers to get a permit, and banning camping in the park, which is owned and managed by the state.

“I wasn’t actually living in the tents, but I appreciate their message and what they stand up for … the unemployed and people without health insurance,” Fahy said. “I know a lot of people like that, and oftentimes they don’t have a voice. This group provides a forum giving them a voice.”

Though many of the nation’s Occupy encampments have been disbanded, the group has had an effect on the political discussion in this country, he said.

“It is sad that they were removed from here, but since we’re not here anymore, we need to discuss what sort of things we need to do to move forward,” Fahy said.

Howard Little of Augusta lived in tents with the other activists. Little said he’s not sure how the group should move ahead, but was sad that it had to leave the park.

“We shouldn’t have gotten kicked out,” Little said. “We were keeping up the park.”

Diane Messer of Liberty said the general assembly is the way the group conducts business.

“We do it by consensus … everyone agrees,” Messer said.

About 20 people showed up for Saturday’s meeting. They met at noon in the frigid cold near the Vietnam War Memorial. (When they lived at the park, Occupy participants held discussions in a donated teepee.)

Participants in the movement said they plan to continue to be active when the state legislative session starts Jan. 4. They also plan to demonstrate at events and educate young people.

Group members also discussed holding their weekly meetings later in the day at a local Unitarian-Universalist church.

Melissa Caswell of Smithfield said that at this point, working together to make changes in the system is the direction that group members need to go.

“I’m a mental health advocate, and this past week I’ve been attending budget-cut sessions,” Caswell said. “I feel that money needs to come out of politics and lobbyists need to go away. There’s no place in government for that if we’re going to have a democracy.”

She said that as long as money remains the driving force behind political decisions, the government is not working in the best interest of the people.

“They’re looking out for their own pocketbooks and for the best interest of rich people,” she said.

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Mechele Cooper can be contacted at 621-5663 or at:

[email protected]


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