This year’s global protest movements captured the attention of many Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram readers, especially after someone tossed a chemical bomb into the Occupy Maine encampment at Lincoln Park in Portland.

Our account of the Oct. 23 incident was the newspapers’ most-read story online in 2011, according to a web analysis. The story’s wide readership was driven, in large part, by social media that fueled protests from Tahrir Square in Cairo to the Russian Duma in Moscow.

The 20 most-read stories of 2011 included coverage of Gov. Paul LePage’s controversial removal of a mural depicting Maine’s labor history, a Norway man who drove his Honda Accord more than 1 million miles, and the furor over swingers’ sex parties held at a Sanford banquet hall.

No one was injured in the bombing incident that Sunday in October, when a bottle of chemicals was thrown into Occupy Maine’s camp kitchen around 4 a.m. The explosion lifted a large table about a foot off the ground. Protesters were undaunted.

“We are more motivated to keep doing what we’re doing,” said Stephanie Wilburn of Portland, who was sitting near the explosion.

The Occupy Maine camp grew from an international movement against corporate greed and socioeconomic injustice that started in September on Wall Street. After the bombing, readers posted more than 700 comments on the story and forwarded links to many others via Twitter.

“The dude who threw the bomb was a sniveling, dribbling, weak-kneed piece of belly lint too scared to face his/her own shadow,” wrote one reader.

“It’s not fair to seize on one malicious act and portray it as an example of the behavior or intentions of all those who object to the protests,” wrote another.

Occupy Maine has filed a lawsuit against the city of Portland to block an effort to remove people, tents and belongings from the park.

MURAL REMOVAL SPARKS OUTRAGE

Three of the top 20 stories were about the governor’s removal of a mural from the lobby of the Maine Department of Labor building in March. The decision sparked outrage among the state’s labor leaders and drew national media attention, including The New York Times, “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC and Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.”

The 36-foot-long, 11-panel mural, by artist Judy Taylor of Tremont, depicts a shoe-workers strike, female shipbuilders, loggers, textile workers, child laborers and a paper mill strike.

Prompted by an anonymous complaint and advised by a staff member, LePage ordered the removal. He said he wanted to send a message that the state “looks at employees and employers equally” and he believed that “the mural sends a message that we’re one-sided.”

It later came to light that LePage never saw the mural before he had it removed.

Matt Schlobohm, executive director of the Maine AFL-CIO, said the removal was “insulting to working people, petty and shortsighted.” He said the governor seemed to be “much more interested in picking fights with labor than creating jobs that people so desperately want.”

The mural remains in storage and is the subject of a federal lawsuit to have it returned.

‘AN AMAZING RIDE’

The fourth most-read story covered the Oct. 23 celebration in Saco of Joe LoCicero’s effort to drive his 1990 Honda Accord more than 1 million miles. Honda hosted a parade, complete with marching bands and floats, and gave LoCicero a 2012 Accord.

“If you listen carefully, she’s getting old,” LoCicero said of his older car. “But it’s been an amazing ride.”

LoCicero was the first person documented by the manufacturer to have driven a Honda to the million-mile mark. Honda started tracking his progress in August 2010, when LoCicero had racked up 938,000 miles, and set up a website and blog, millionmilejoe.com, so the public could follow along.

LoCicero is a master auto technician who travels throughout Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont inspecting vehicles for warranty claims and lease terms. He bought the older Honda in 1996, when it had 74,000 miles on it. He kept it running with diligent maintenance, keeping track of every fill-up, tire rotation and oil change in dozens of notebooks.

BOY’S BODY FOUND

Crime stories captured readers’ attention, as usual, including the discovery in May of a young boy’s body, wrapped in a blanket, along a remote road in South Berwick. It was the fifth most-read story.

Investigators later identified the boy as 6-year-old Camden Pierce Hughes of Irving, Texas. His mother, Julianne McCrery, 42, pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder for killing her son by asphyxiation at a New Hampshire inn. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 13 to 45 years in prison.

The recovery in April of the body of 20-year-old Krista Dittmeyer of Portland from a pond in Conway, N.H., was story No. 15. Three men have been charged in what investigators said was a scheme to steal drugs and money from Dittmeyer.

Anthony Papile, 28, of Ossipee, N.H., is charged with second-degree murder. Trevor Ferguson, 23, of Tamworth, and Michael Petelis, 28, of Ossipee, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit robbery.

SEXY STORIES GET ATTENTION

Sexy stories drew a lot of attention, including when Sanford officials ordered a local caterer to stop hosting sex parties at a former Knights of Columbus hall. It was story No. 8.

Investigators had witnessed men and women openly engaging in various sexual acts during a Halloween party held Oct. 15. Jim Colley, the caterer, promised to stop hosting the parties, which were promoted via an online swingers’ club. Town officials renewed his operating licenses over the objections of some townspeople and councilors.

No. 9 was about the Grand View Topless Coffee Shop in Vasselboro. Posted in May, the story explained that owner Donald Crabtree had decided to stop fighting public opposition and planned to close the shop when his inventory ran out.

The original shop burned to the ground in June 2009 and the shop had been operating in a trailer. Raymond Bellavance Jr., 50, of Winthrop, was found guilty of two counts of arson in Kennebec County Superior Court on Dec. 30.

No. 12 was about Mei-Ling Lam of Clinton, who became the first Mainer to be named Playmate of the Month in Playboy magazine. The 27-year-old Lam was the June centerfold.

WELL-KNOWN MAINERS

Other well-known Mainers were the subject of well-read stories, including Taylor Griffin, 40, head of a high-end food import business in Portland, who was killed in an Oct. 16 car crash during a business trip to California’s wine country. The story about Taylor’s death was the 10th most-read story of the year.

No. 13 was about a stone wall and a cedar fence built by L.L. Bean President and CEO Christopher McCormick at his Cumberland Foreside home. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court decided in November that McCormick had to remove the fence, ending a three-year battle with neighbors.

No. 17 was about Lori Voornas, 45, host of WJBQ-FM’s morning show, who came out as a lesbian to her listeners in August and announced her upcoming union with her same-sex partner.

No. 18 was a feature obituary on Timothy Hagerman, a popular Scarborough and South Portland man who died Dec. 26 of cancer a little more than a year after he was married. A Feb. 21 story about the death of former car dealer “Jolly John” Pulsifer, 74, of Scarborough, was No. 20.

SHORT STORIES WELL-READ

Some of the shortest stories, also known as news briefs, drew the widest readership. They included an item about the Republican-dominated Maine House of Representatives passing a nonbiding resolution in April that asked Congress to respect state sovereignty. It was the third most-read story.

No. 6 was a brief about a man who was run over and killed instantly while lying in Route 142 in the Franklin County town of Carthage. Police said Bert Knox, 44, was intoxicated at the time and had a history of lying in the road.

No. 7 was a short item about a failed attempt to implode the central heating plant at the former Loring Air Force Base in Aroostook County. The dynamite exploded but left most of the building standing. The rest of the demolition was done without explosives.

No. 16 was a brief about graffiti that was sprayed on a Portland mosque after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden on May 2. The graffiti included “Osama today, Islam tomorow (sic)” and “Long live the West.” The vandalism was widely decried by city leaders.

No. 19 was a story about the Skowhegan Area High School field hockey team clinching the Class A state championship for the 10th time in 11 years. The girls beat Marshwood High School of South Berwick 5-0 in the Oct. 29 match.

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

[email protected]