PORTLAND — One of the first encampments inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement is well on its way to being dismantled, though Portland officials have decided to give campers four more days to remove the last of the tents.

Demonstrators who touted their tent city in Lincoln Park as the oldest remaining Occupy-style encampment vowed to continue the discussion that the movement started about corporate excesses and economic inequality.

“Just because the occupation is changing form doesn’t mean it’s going away,” Heather Curtis, one of the campers, said before she started hauling away her belongings.

The demonstrators were supposed to be out of Lincoln Park by Monday morning, and they dismantled many tents during the weekend. The city granted a request by the group’s attorney to give demonstrators until Friday to finish the cleanup.

Campers said some of their tents had frozen to the ground. City officials said warm temperatures forecast for today and Wednesday could help with the removal.

The demonstrators, who had been in Lincoln Park since Oct. 3, are part of a larger exodus from Occupy encampments. A new wave of eviction orders has been issued in several cities, including Miami, Washington and Pittsburgh.

At one point, as many as 70 tents were set up in Lincoln Park. That number had dropped to a couple dozen by last week, when a state judge denied Occupy Maine’s request for an injunction to prevent the city from enforcing an eviction notice issued Dec. 15.

City officials cited concerns about disturbances, public safety and sanitation in the park, which is supposed to be closed from 10 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.

Occupy Maine plans to continue to get its message out.

“You can only fight for so long, and you realize at the end that it’s a new beginning,” said Deese Hamilton, one of the four plaintiffs in Occupy Maine’s lawsuit against the city. Hamilton was homeless before joining the Occupy protesters.

In addition to giving protesters more time to clean up the park, the four-day delay will give the city time to help homeless demonstrators find accommodations, officials said.

Occupy Maine began two weeks after Occupy Wall Street demonstrators set up tents and began sleeping in New York’s Zuccotti Park. The local group launched its first demonstration on Oct. 1 in Monument Square and moved to Lincoln Park two days later.

On Monday morning, Harry Brown, one of the longtime campers, set fire to a flag that had flown at the camp, saying it no longer served its purpose, just as the encampment no longer served its purpose.

Brown said he did not intend to disrespect the flag, but at the same time he was trying to make a statement.

“I don’t plan to go to jail, but I had to do something,” he said, referring to the potential for civil disobedience that some members have expressed.

“I believe in this country and what it’s supposed to stand for,” he said. “It was a flag that served its purpose, and the way you dispose of a flag is to burn it.”

According to the etiquette section of the website www.usa-flag-site.org: “When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner.” The website does not define “dignified.”

No police officers or representatives from the city were in the park at the time.

Other demonstrators disagreed with the flag burning, but said Brown was free to express himself as he chose.

“It’s not my choice, but it’s his choice,” said Curtis, who spent Monday morning working with her mother to dismantle her tent and collect her belongings.

Brown, who is homeless, said he will now try to find an apartment.

“Frankly, I’m a little tired of waking up cold,” he said.

– Staff Writer David Hench contributed to this report.

 


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