In the wake of an early-morning bomb attack in Lincoln Park, the OccupyMaine protestors have moved their tents and community areas to a location closer to government buildings equipped with surveillance cameras.
It's perhaps not what you might expect of a group concerned about the corporate takeover of government power, but being under the gaze of the cameras — not to mention merely feet from the route all Portland police cars must take to return to the city's garage — will help the Occupiers maintain a sense of safety after their camp was bombed around 4 am Sunday.
The attack, which came from a car described by Acting Police Chief Mike Sauschuck as two- or four-door silver Toyota or Nissan sedan heading east on Congress Street. Some Occupy members say the car's occupants drove past the camp earlier, shouting abuse and possibly even throwing a container that did not explode.
The device that did explode was a Gatorade bottle containing household solvents and perhaps a piece of aluminum foil, which would react with the solvents and cause an explosion, Sauschuck said. There were no injuries reported to police; one camper told reporters she temporarily lost hearing in one ear after the blast.
In a Monday meeting with reporters, Sauschuck suggested that the perpetrators were perhaps teenage troublemakers who were not specifically targeting the OccupyMaine group or their message, but rather making a target out of the camp as they passed by.
Chemical-bomb explosions become more frequent "around Halloween," he said, noting that Portland officers heard — but could not find the source of — a similar explosion at about 3 am Sunday, somewhere southwest of Monument Square. He believes the two explosions are related; "we do not believe OccupyMaine was the sole target."
Nevertheless, Sauschuck has contacted the US Attorney's Office for the District of Maine to inquire about whether an attack on the Occupation constitutes a threat to the Occupiers' First Amendment rights; he noted Monday that such a determination depends in part on the intent and mindset of a suspect.
He also checked with the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to see whether federal charges might apply. He had not heard a conclusive answer as of Monday afternoon.
"It's a dangerous situation that we're concerned about," Sauschuck said. "Obviously something like this would shake up anyone."
The Occupy group was indeed concerned, and so on Monday moved most of their camp — including the kitchen and community lounge area where the bomb landed — to the southwest corner of Lincoln Park, an area covered by surveillance cameras mounted on the county and federal courthouses across the street. They are now also much closer to the road where Portland police cruisers must drive to enter the city garage. And the camp is still just across Pearl Street from the Central Fire Station.
The Occupiers say they are determined to stay, and indeed the number of tents and people around camp grows daily. To show their commitment, they'll have a "We Shall Not Be Moved" march on Thursday at 5 pm, from Monument Square to Lincoln Park.