'Occupy Bangor' interrupted by police

Posted Wednesday, December 7, 2011 in News

'Occupy Bangor' interrupted by police

Alba Briggs packs up under police observation. (Cell-phone image by C. Bouchard.)

by Christopher Bouchard

BANGOR — The Occupy Bangor movement has faced some recent hardships, as their tents and supplies have been forcibly removed by the city’s police force.

Earlier Monday, there were only about four members of the movement present at the protest site, and only one of those protesters was holding up a sign supporting the movement. This protester is Ron Staples, an older gentleman who has been a part of the movement since it started.

Staples says that he was inspired to be a part of the protest because of what he observed with the Vietnam War. He states that the protesters grew in number after the Kent State incident, and that that may have played an integral part in stopping the war. Because of this, Staples was inspired to be a part of a similar movement. 

As far as changes in Bangor go, Staples has quite a few of his own ideas.

“I’d like to see bus service go on after 6 at night,” Staples  said. “People's lives don’t stop at that point, but for there to be more buses in Bangor, we’d need to have more money from Washington. But if a bus went by my house every day, I’d own one less vehicle. At least in China, where they supposedly don’t love their people, they have buses going by every single house about every half-hour.”

Mike Turcotte, an ethics professor at EMCC, joined the conversation.

“I think dissent is patriotic, but without a goal statement, or conclusion, it’s tough for people to get behind,” Turcotte said.

“You’re probably not as radical as I am,” Staples retorted.

“I like political discourse and all, but I’d also like to see more organization for the movement, maybe in the form of more social media interaction,” Turcotte said. “There’s a time when people need to lift their heads up from the laptop and other media distractions and take a look at the things that are going on around them to see if it’s benefiting themselves, their families, their communities, or their future.”

It was at this point that roughly nine police officers showed up on the scene. They initially stood outside of the encampment, but soon began to shine their flashlights into the tents that were set up in the park next to the Bangor Library. The police practically doubled the number of protesters present at the movement. They asked all the protesters if they owned any of the property that was set up in the park.

A red truck with a large wooden trailer attached to it parked beside the road in front of the library. All confiscated materials were to go into this trailer.

More protesters arrived, as the weekly general assembly was to take place. A meeting was called amidst all of this chaos and several issues were discussed. The meetings of the Occupy Bangor movement follow the pattern of Occupy Wall Street meetings in several ways.

The Bangor protesters use the same method of communicating to a large group of people as the Wall Street protesters used. If one person wants to say something, he will yell “Mic check!” At this point, everyone who heard the person will repeat what was said. The individual who yelled “Mic check!” will then say a few words that will be chanted by everyone within that person’s range. This method of communication allows any person to have his or her message heard.

A Bangor protester used the “Mic check!” method of communicating to call the assembly to action during the police seizure of occupier possessions.

Several individuals carry out specific tasks during these meetings. First, there is the facilitator, who goes through all of the important issues, and runs the group through the different aspects of the meeting. The facilitator has much to do with what is discussed during the meeting and generally makes an effort to establish order amid the chaos.

The next job is the “stack taker.” This job involves someone creating a stack.  A “stack” is formed when several people raise their hands and the stack taker determines in what order the hands were raised, and numbers the individuals accordingly, then informs them in which order they can speak.

There is also a “vibe checker.” This person makes sure that nothing gets out of hand, and keeps the discussion at a rational, mature level.

Like any other group meeting, there is also someone taking down the minutes, and someone writing notes.

Several issues were discussed during the meeting, the first being the issue of where one of the tents was to go. The tent in question was worth approximately $1,200, but it was in storage, and the protesters would be charged for any excess storage time. This issue slowly merged into the issue of the general future of the Occupy Bangor protests.

One man told the group that there was a federal court case taking place in Bangor that could have a positive benefit for the protesters. If the judge were to rule in the protesters’ favor, they would be able to keep their tents on the property and stay for as long as they pleased. The verdict for this case, according to the man at the meeting, should be decided within 48 hours.

Another man spoke and recommended that the group learn how to lobby, and uses this skill to more effectively demand the changes that they desire.

The meeting was then briefly adjourned so that protesters could take any of their belongings from the park before they were taken by the police.  Tents and other materials present in the park were moved to a nearby building called the “Peace and Justice Center.”

The police made an effort to slow traffic so that protesters could easily transport their materials across the road. Lawrence Reichard, an Occupy Bangor protester from the very start, was standing on the sidewalk as this occurred.

“I think it’s unfortunate that the city of Bangor doesn’t have a greater respect for the First Amendment right to free speech,” Reichard said. “I very much hope that someday their collective asses will be hauled into court and made to respect that right. We are not done by any means. We will not be done until the 99 percent has exactly 99 percent of the political power in this country.”

Reichard then explained his ideal vision for the country.

“I’d like to see them have more respect for the First Amendment. I’d like them to appreciate that public spaces are not just for picnics, but are also places for public discourse. Tax the rich. End the wars. I’d like to see the wealthy in this country pay for their fair share, carry their weight, and quit sucking the lifeblood out of the 99 percent like so many leeches.”

He concluded by asserting that he would respond to any violence with nonviolence.  Reichard believes that the violent acts being committed by the police in larger cities are just as detrimental to the cause as the non-violent police shut-down that took place Monday night.

“Death at the hands of a pillow is just as lethal as death from billy clubs.”

Alba Briggs, the stack taker for Monday’s meeting, described what inspired him to be a part of the movement.

“I rode my bike by the protest one day, started talking to people, and that was when I realized this movement was for me,” Briggs said.  “I started coming out every day, and camping every Monday.”

Briggs explained the current situation with the police.

“The story is, originally, that we were asked to stay off city property. The library asked that tents be removed by 8 a.m. this morning. They were removed, but some of the more hard-core protesters set them up again.”

Briggs believes that, like many of the other Occupy movements in the country, Occupy Bangor is entering what is known as Phase 2 of the protest.

“Phase 1 has everything to do with occupying a certain area, but Phase 2 has more to do with actually taking action, like lobbying or marching, or something to that effect. Many, if not all, of the protesters in New York are already in Phase 2.”

The future of the Occupy Bangor protest is unclear, but it is apparent that the participating individuals do not plan on backing down any time soon.

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