PORTLAND — For the first time in more than four months, there are no tents in Lincoln Park.
Portland Public Works employees came to the park Friday afternoon with rakes and snowplows to clear leftover debris from what had been the home of OccupyMaine since Oct. 3, 2011.
After a Maine Superior Court judge ruled the group did not have a right to occupy the park around the clock, the city issued an eviction notice. The group was told to leave the park by 8 a.m. Friday.
OccupyMaine has been camping in Lincoln Park in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. The groups oppose income inequality and corporate influence in politics and government. They have rallied behind the pluralist slogan “We are the 99 percent.“
The Portland group has claimed it had the longest-standing encampment in the entire Occupy movement. At the protest’s peak, before the winter cold struck, about 75 people were camping in Lincoln Park. That number dwindled to about 15 in recent weeks.
Most of the occupiers had left voluntarily by the time the city came to mop up, but Portland police officers were on the scene to ensure the eviction and cleanup went smoothly.
The handful of protesters still in the park Friday packed up their belongings and cooperated with the cleanup before leaving.
“I think (the eviction) has gone very well for both sides,” said Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck, who was at the park Friday afternoon. “I like to see OccupyMaine folks working side-by-side with the PPW guys. They’re both committed stewards of the park.”
Though the eviction came and went without conflict between occupiers and the police, protesters did endure a hail of insults and jeers – including “get out!” and “go home!” – from some passing pedestrians and drivers.
“I really just wish they’d get out of their cars and talk to us,” said longtime occupier Evan McVeigh. “I want there to be an understanding between us and the folks who disagree with us.”
One protester, a homeless man named Stephen Soldan, also got into an argument with a videographer from WGME.
Soldan was packing up his belongings and the tent he shared with his girlfriend, their two dogs and another homeless protester, and asked the cameraman to stop recording him. The cameraman, who would not provide his name, laughed and told Soldan he had a right to tape what was happening.
“The city is destroying our lives and you’re making it worse by laughing at it and filming it,” Soldan said. “I know it’s a public park, but this is also my apartment.”
The cameraman continued laughing and told Soldan to “just pack up” and to “take a chill pill.” He eventually stopped shooting.
Soldan said he and his girlfriend would now have to live in the woods.
Occupiers were resigned as they packed away their things and left, but said the eviction would not quell their movement.
Several protesters said they planned to demonstrate outside GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign event Friday night at Portland Yacht Services.
Another, who built a cart big enough to carry an assembled tent, said she planned to march her tent through Lincoln Park all night, a moving protest of the eviction.
Updated at 4:50 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, 2012.
A Portland Public Works Department crew cleans up bedding left at the OccupyMaine encampment in Lincoln Park on Friday afternoon, Feb. 10.
Lt. Bill Preis of the Portland Police Department speaks on a cell phone while providing security during the eviction of OccupyMaine protesters from Lincoln Park on Friday afternoon, Feb. 10.
Portland Police Department Lt. Bill Preis, center, stands near a group of OccupyMaine protesters and supporters during the eviction on Friday afternoon, Feb. 10.
A homeless protester known as Paco watches as public works crews and police clean up Lincoln Park during the eviction of OccupyMaine on Friday afternoon in Portland. Paco said he was not sure where he will go.
OccupyMaine protester Harry Brown holds an American flag given to him by Sam Swenson in Lincoln Park on Friday, Feb. 10. Brown gained some notoriety when he burned a tattered flag in the park on Monday, Feb. 6, just hours before the city granted the protesters an eviction extension.