OccupyMaine Grows in Portland
As the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York grows in size and attention (in Jon Stewart's words the media has moved "its coverage dial from blackout to circus"), a spin-off occupation has developed in downtown Portland.
The Portland-based movement now apparently includes a hard-core cadre of full timers who have set up tents in nearby Lincoln Park and a diverse group of supporters who have been stopping by to protest, march, or just join the "occupation," as the group dubs its presence in Monument Square.
City officials and police have not opposed the protesters and, according to the Bangor Daily News, have informed the activists that they can each claim four square feet for their activities, based on regulations that allow Portland residents to use public space to "make or sell artwork."
The group posted a triumphant note to their Twitter stream this morning declaring, "Rise and shine! We made it through the first frost with all our fingers and toes!"
The specific purpose of the protests, which might be loosely described as calling for political reform and for making big banks pay for damage done to the American economy, isn't entirely clear and neither is the potential path from urban camping to real social and political change. The occupiers, however, are very clear about their targets: the large corporations and wealthy individuals who have accumulated a massive amount of power in the nation's public and political spheres.
Maybe that's enough. The purpose of the "occupations" are, in many ways, the events themselves - public reminders of inequality in a society that that often seems to ignore persistent disparities in class, race, health and education. It's a little harder to ignore our country's social and political problems when they're being paraded down the street on a daily basis.