PORTLAND – City officials hope to build on the success of cities that have won court rulings against attempts by Occupy groups to stay in municipal parks to protest income inequality and Wall Street’s excesses.

In their response Friday to the lawsuit filed by Occupy Maine in its attempt to remain in Lincoln Park, Portland’s lawyers cite similar situations in five other cities. Judges ruled in every case that city authorities had the right to ban overnight camping in public parks and evict Occupy protesters.

Portland’s lawyers also cite a 1984 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court said communities can set “reasonable” limits on protests and free speech in public spaces.

Occupy Maine sued Portland on Dec. 19, after the City Council turned down the group’s application for a permit to remain in the park.

The lawsuit argues that the Maine Constitution gives protesters free speech rights that go beyond those spelled out in the federal Constitution.

Occupy Maine insists that the city “invited” the group to stay in Lincoln Park when officials suggested it as an alternative to protests that were based primarily in Monument Square in October.

The city’s lawyers argue now that the move was only a temporary solution while both sides analyzed their legal rights.

The response filed in Cumberland County Superior Court says Occupy Maine’s stay in the park was conditional and could continue only if the protesters maintained health and safety standards.

It goes on to list arrests in the park connected to the protesters, as well as alleged health and safety violations, accompanied by pictures of tents and heating units that the city says violate Portland’s regulations.

The city is standing by its agreement not to forcibly remove the protesters from Lincoln Park while the legal process unfolds, spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said Friday.

Portland’s filing says the court should not grant Occupy Maine’s request for a temporary injunction allowing the protesters to stay because the group has no chance of winning a permanent ban on action to evict it.

The lawyers also argue that camping is not a form of expression and therefore is not constitutionally protected.

John Branson, the lawyer representing Occupy Maine, said the circumstances in Portland are different from those in cities where judges ruled against the protesters.

For instance, he noted that Occupy Boston never sought a city permit to stay in Dewey Square.

“Each case needs to be looked at individually, and there are many circumstances in Occupy Maine’s case that are unique,” Branson said.

Occupy Maine, he said, isn’t seeking to block the city’s ability to regulate the encampment, “but we’ve said they cannot ban this.”

Branson noted that he didn’t have a chance to study the city’s response in detail because it was filed late Friday.

He said he expects to meet with Occupy Maine’s legal working group this weekend to begin preparing a response.

The city’s filing asks the court for an expedited hearing on the case, although it doesn’t request a specific time frame.

Branson said he doesn’t object to a quick hearing schedule but he wants the full seven days allowed under court rules to respond to Friday’s filing.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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