Judge Thomas Warren’s courtroom in the Maine Superior Court, Portland, was the scene of the continuation of a battle between OccupyMaine and the City of Portland – a battle that would permit the occupiers to remain at Lincoln Park until their goals are met or at least until the outcome of the litigation before the court is decided. The battle began last October in Monument Square and moved to Lincoln Park at the suggestion of the city manager. Ultimately, the city council denied a request for a permit to remain there making it into a David and Goliath battle in which the Davids claimed they were denied their First Amendment rights.
Six people, four Occupiers, testified consistently for the plaintiff in the case against the City; citing economic inequality as the unifying theme and that despite the cold weather, a substantial number of occupiers remain camping at Lincoln Park. In contrast, the City’s out-of-house legal counsel, Mark Dunlap, introduced 7 city employees to testify on behalf of the City. One notable was District Attorney Stephanie Anderson who testified that her courthouse office overlooks Lincoln Park. She told John Branson, legal counsel to the occupiers, that since the cold weather had arrived, she sees no activity in the Park and everyone has left. Branson pointed out that her afternoon office hours and the darkness of the day preclude her from seeing general assemblies taking part in the Park – weekdays and on Sundays when she doesn’t work.
Also testifying for the City was Portland Police Officer Nicholas Goodman. He testified he was instructed by his superiors to take photographs of the poor health and safety conditions at Lincoln Park one morning earlier this month. Photos showed trash strewn about the Park as though a tornado had swept through the Park. Branson asked Goodman whether he know that the previous night there had been a severe wind and rain storm – with winds gusting up to 28 mph. Goodman said he was unaware of the storm the previous night. Branson continued to poke huge holes in the creditability of the defendants, although Dunlap was unable to reciprocate in kind against the plaintiffs who were solid testifiers.
However, whether or not about 6 hours of testimony will convince Judge Warren to rule that First Amendment rights supercede a local ordinance against “loitering” in city parks that would allow occupiers to remain – remains to be seen. The Judge said his decision will be short and probably available by the end of the week.
The cost for the legal services of attorney Mark Dunlap, of Norman, Hansen & DeTroy, to the city will be in the area of $10,000 to $15,000 according to Gary Wood, city corporate counsel. If the City wins the case, occupiers will have to decide whether or not to appeal the case. In all, it could take between 90 days to a year to play out said Wood.
However, some members of OccupyMaine believe that no appeal will be filed by it should the motion to vacate go forward.