Portland orders Deering Oaks Park cleanup ahead of LePage press conference on crime, drugs

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The Hiker, in Deering Oaks Park, Portland, Maine

Portland city officials cleared trash and a homeless encampment from Deering Oaks Park in Portland ahead of a planned event held by gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage on September 28.

WMTW reporter Adriana Sanchez recorded video of city workers clearing litter and the possessions of homeless individuals from the park early Wednesday morning. 

LePage held a press conference in the park at 10:30 a.m. His campaign had advertised it would focus on crime. Portland police have reported 42 shootings in the city so far this year, an increase from 13 in 2021. LePage’s speech focused more on opioid use and drug overdoses and alleged Gov. Janet Mills’ administration has exacerbated rather than helped solve substance abuse issues in the state.

Jessica Grondin, Director of Communications and Digital Services for the city of Portland, said she was “not aware of any permitted events in Deering Oaks today.”

“I can tell you that this work was previously scheduled. We have been doing this regularly as conditions require (trash, encampments, etc) and as resources allow. This particular cleanup was planned in direct response to observed violations of the emphasis area designation and related trash. We do various cleanups on a weekly basis, traditionally on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. This was not a one off,” Grondin continued.

On condition of anonymity, a source who works for the City of Portland shared evidence that the order to clear the park came the night before LePage’s event, writing they had just received word of the cleanup order and had to scramble to clean up the park. That source also noted the next morning that the decision was made last minute and had not been planned in advance, as the city claimed.

The source also added that city workers cleaning the park were asked to leave once media attention was drawn to the cleanup.

Responding to a follow-up question about the last time the park was cleaned and whether the city could provide a plan showing work scheduled in Deering Park on September 28, Grondin reiterated that cleanup events have been ongoing throughout the summer.

“As I said, we’ve been performing cleanup events in Deering Oaks multiple times per week on a weekly basis all summer.” Grondin stated.

Jeremy Green, a homeless man who was living in the park, told the Portland Press Herald that Wednesday’s cleanup was the first time he had been asked to leave after living in the park for one month and did not know why he was asked to move.

Photo: Kenneth C. Zirkel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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