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8 arrested in Occupy Augusta protest

By Glenn Adams
Associated Press / November 27, 2011
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AUGUSTA, Maine—Eight people were arrested following an Occupy Maine demonstration Sunday that spilled from the sidewalk over a waist-high, wooden fence to the Maine governor's mansion grounds, state police said.

Spokesman Steve McCausland of the state Public Safety Department said protesters were charged with criminal trespass and criminal mischief. No names were immediately available and at least six people had made bail by Sunday evening, McCausland said.

The arrests came the same day protesters in the Occupy Augusta encampment in Capitol Park took down their tents and packed their camping gear after being told to get a permit or move their shelters.

McCausland said the eight were arrested after jumping the fence to the Blaine House lawn and some climbed a portico to the building and unfurled an Occupy banner. As many as 50 protesters, some holding signs and beating a drum, gathered near the Blaine House gates.

Word of a possible disturbance spread Sunday afternoon in the Occupy site as the encampment broke up.

Capitol Police had allowed the protesters to stay in the park near the State House since Oct. 15, but Capitol Police Chief Russ Gauvin told the demonstrators Friday they needed to apply for a permit by Monday.

As smaller tents were being taken down by their owners Sunday, Occupy leaders said a large teepee loaned by the Penobscot Indians and a big all-weather tent would stay up. The smaller tents had to come down sooner or later because they will collapse under the weight of the winter's snow, Occupy's Jim Freeman of Verona Island said.

By the afternoon, action shifted across the street to the governor's mansion, where demonstrators held signs near the entrances and banged on a large drum. State troopers maintained positions near the Blaine House doors.

Freeman planned to meet Monday with police to discuss the protesters' next step, but he said they won't ask for a permit because they believe one isn't necessary to exercise their right to assemble.

Another spokesman, Lew Kingsbury of Pittston, said that the teepee and larger tent would be left standing.

"This is Hooverville. People live here," Kingsbury said.

He said about half of the two dozen or so people who've been staying there consider it their home and the other half camp for short stints to join in the protest. The national Occupy movement's main themes are ending what they see as corporate greed and the disparate incomes of Americans.

In the encampment, Matt Bailey, 20, of Jefferson said he was disappointed as he took down the tent he's been staying in for about a week.

"It's been a nonviolent, peaceful protest. I think it's wrong to shut us down," Bailey said before the protest led to arrests. But it made us a lot stronger, too."

Asked whether the campers found the police request to break up camp a relief as the cold weather approaches, Bailey said, "I don't think so. The plan was to go through the whole winter."

Elsewhere, the Occupy protest in a downtown Portland park has been marred by four separate violent incidents, including a protester being hit on the head with the blunt end of a hatchet. City officials will consider whether to grant a permit for demonstrators. Occupy Bangor says it is negotiating an agreement with city officials for a continued presence in a downtown park.

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