WASHINGTON — Occupy Maine’s Portland encampment faced a chemical bomb explosion early Sunday morning. While no one was injured, some demonstrators’ property was damaged at the Occupy Wall Street-inspired protest.
The homemade bomb, which was thrown from a silver Toyota around 4 a.m., destroyed several handmade signs when it exploded upon impact, according to Christopher Schisler, a member of Occupy Maine’s security team who was sitting just 8 feet from the explosion.
The bomb was constructed of a plastic Gatorade bottle likely containing home cleaning solvents, said acting Portland Chief of Police Michael Sauschuck. Protesters called police to the scene following the explosion and Sauschuck said the occupiers met responding officers with a “cooperative stance.” Schisler suggested officers congratulated them for handling the attack in a professional manner.
Police collected bomb remnants and multiple witness accounts at the scene and are “actively investigating” the attack. Perpetrators could face charges for criminal use of explosives — a class C felony charge that could land them behind bars for a year or more — with a potential for a civil rights violation as well if the perpetrators sought to target Occupy Maine demonstrators specifically, according to Sauschuck.
The bomb exploded in the “community area” of the encampment, which included the kitchen and first aid center. No one was inside the area at the time, but several occupiers were close by, Schisler said.
“This is certainly a very serious incident…somebody could have been seriously hurt and we’re treating it as such,” Sauschuck said.
Sauschuck said the Occupy Maine attack may not have been the only incident of its kind that night, revealing two officers had reported hearing a similar noise just an hour earlier to the west of the Occupy Maine encampment.
Most occupiers were awakened by the explosion, Schisler said, but added that no one abandoned the encampment.
“It was a scare tactic. It did not work. It will not work. We’re going to stay here until we see some change,” he said. “If anything we have gained 15 people.”
Schisler, who has protested with Occupy Maine for the past 29 days, said the attack was the first hostile interaction the group has received since the beginning of their Portland occupation more than a month ago. The Portland police will now provide special attention to Occupy Maine in light of the attack, Sauschuck said.
“It could have been, quite frankly, aimed at Occupy Maine, but at this point we have no indication one way or another exactly what the intent was behind this particular incident,” Sauschuck said.
Schisler said Occupy Maine is unfazed by the bombing — even welcoming the attention brought on by it.
“It may be the wrong kind of attention,” he said, “but it is attention that is coming to Occupy which means our voices are being heard.”