Monday, November 28, 2011

Occupy Maine: The honeymoon is over

I visited Maine for Thanksgiving weekend and stopped by the Occupy protests in Augusta and Portland to spend some more time talking to the protesters about whats important to them.

The two Maine encampments were a stark contrast to the energetic Occupy Boston protest I visited when the movement was still young. The protesters seemed somewhat bored with the whole thing and perhaps resented the snow on the ground.

A substantial amount of the protesters focus has shifted from issues like income inequality and corporate personhood to the movement itself.

The first person I talked to at Occupy Augusta on Friday was Jarody, a tea party protester and former Republican candidate for the state house. When I asked him what are the important issues, he said the most important thing he cares about is that the Occupy movement is not hijacked by established political groups. That is to say, his primary interest in this protest is that he wants to participate in a protest with a degree of purity untouched by outsider organizations, or protesting for the sake of protesting as long as it's pure.

I also heard a lot of calls about free speech and the right to protest. Jarody and other protesters tried to dodge when I asked them about the legality of their tent city in the park and said they have a day-to-day understanding with the capital police. This is odd because the whole point is to illegally occupy land to attract attention, then play the victim card when police enforce the law.

They called a meeting while I was there with fellow bloggers Nate and Michael Hawkins announcing that capital police told them the eviction notice is coming Monday. The person leading the meeting, possibly named Lou, said he had been waiting five or six weeks to be arrested here, and the time was finally coming. He told the other members to call more people in to be arrested with them.

"They're be a lot of people coming here who will want to be arrested," he added. It reinforced my view that the left sees being arrested as a martyrdom, and uses these self-made martyrs to convince the gullible that the police are cracking down on them for their views, not for trespassing.

One person said during the meeting that if the police pepper spray him, he will spray them back. This person was clearly an idiot, and to the groups credit, the idiot was told he can't do that.

As of this time, Nate reports that the camp in Augusta is still around. Over the weekend nine people were arrested for hopping the fence of the governors mansion and stringing up a banner, but none of them were there Friday.

The protesters I talked to said if the police told them to leave or be pepper sprayed, they'd choose to be pepper sprayed.

One issue that united the 15 members of the Occupy Augusta was an opposition to genetically-modified food. They were picking at two roasted turkeys still sitting in their pans. One of them was filled with potatoes, mushrooms and onions (I assume it was a gluten-free attempt at stuffing) and it was obviously the cook's first bird: it was left sitting in two inches of congealed fat and the paper packet of internal organs was left inside when it was cooked.

The Augusta encampment had a teepee for sleeping in the center surrounded by smaller tents. The communal tent had brand-new metal shelves that organizes said were donated. There was a left-wing library, picnic tables, boxes of donated food and a few trays of loose tobacco for communal cigarettes. The system seemed to work, as there were only 15 people, but Nate said that number doubled to 30 when the police tried to clear it out today.

The most telling moment was when one of the protesters gave a long pour of table salt into a big cup, then came back a minute later to pour more and walked away. I said to Jarody, he's not salting the walkway with that, is he?

Jarody looked at me with wide eyes and said "Someone needs to stop him!"

I had a good time talking to the protesters in Boston and Augusta. I didn't enjoy the protest in Portland, known as Occupy Maine, when I stopped by Saturday at noon time.

I saw a group of about half a dozen people sitting lazily around a picnic table. No one was talking about I sat down with them and said I was a blogger originally from the area who wants to know what issues are important to them. One person asked what town I was from and then there was a big pause.

A wrinkled woman around age 60 glared at me and said I was being rude. She said I was interrupting them and went on (rudely) and insisted they were in the middle of talking. They weren't, but there's no point in arguing with crusty old hippies. I told the group that they're here to protest and identifying the issues they're protesting should be something they want to do.

I ended up talking to a young woman named Jenna, who was just there for the weekend. Jenna insisted the most Americans quality of life and standard of living had been dropping since the 1970s because of the rise in things like health care costs.

She said she knows it sounds crazy to say she's anti-capitalist, but wants to replace capitalism with a different economic system, although she said she doesn't know what to replace it with.

Another of her points was that the strength of the movement comes from not having a list of demands. She said she'd rather see a revolution that be promised demands that will never come.

That was all I was able to get out of the Portland group. I later learned why they've been on edge. The week before one of their members had attacked a critic, and two others choked and bludgeoned a third member for banging a drum at 7 a.m. On Thursday Jason Carr, the one who assaulted someone for disagreeing with their message as he tried to leave, was arrested again for domestic violence in the camp. A couple was also arrest for hitting one another and a third person was arrested for disorderly conduct.

One of my friends has been an organizers there from the start and he looked exhausted. After a quick talk he expressed frustration with running the group, which he said was like herding cats.


  1. One of the people arrested in front of the Blaine House was a former philosophy professor of mine. From what I gather, the point of that protest was to object to Occupy Augusta getting evicted. A sort of protest protest in favor of a protest.

    Here is the latest news:

    Also, the greasy man spells his name "Jarody". If you spell it correctly on here, I'm sure he will search it eventually and perhaps even grace us with his presence.

  2. You are right liberal Michael, the point was to protest their pending eviction. However, they are idiots, the governor has nothing to do with Capitol Park. The legislative council makes all the decisions, and these people in the park think it came down from the white house or homeland security.

    For them to think DHS even knows that 15 unwashed vagabonds and lounging about killing the grass in the park is laughable.

  3. Young, Hip and Conservative? Ha - Hey kid, grow a mind and live life for awhile - see what you see and think when you are 64.


  4. Michael, This is mostly a thoughtful report back, only slightly marred by your ad hominem gratuitous insults. Thanks for being a citizen journalist, and for keeping an open mind.

    I thought you might be interested in this video I made of the arrests and crowd actions in Augusta on Sun. 11/29 at the governor's house:

  5. Sounds like you missed the Portland Maine occupy group as the park is a front now to distract the unwanted element. As after reading this sounds like Portland Maine occupy is successfully moving forward with little resistance at this time. Mainers are crafty.

  6. "By," thanks for the links. Jarody's YouTube channel, also named Jarody, had an interview with those same people who said their house was broken in to. Basically, the trespassers were tying up so much police that they couldn't send anyone over at the time to deal with victims of a crime.

    I'm curious to what my "ad hominem gratuitous insults" were, that crusty old hippie was very much a crusty old hippie, and I would betray my readership not to include that detail.