PORTLAND (AP) – Thumbing its nose at university administrators, a group whose art exhibit was canceled by the University of Southern Maine said Tuesday it will display the works on campus in a “walking art show.”

The Victory Gardens Project, an organization that supports what it says are political prisoners, said supporters will carry Thomas Manning’s paintings across the USM campus to Congress Square late Friday afternoon.

Once there, the paintings will be displayed and a microphone will be set up for people to talk, read poetry and play music.

“We think there’s an important message in Tom’s paintings and we’re not going to let the university censor us from showing his paintings,” said Tom Chard, a USM student and a member of the Victory Gardens Project.

The exhibit, “Can’t Jail the Spirit,” was supposed to feature paintings by Manning and others at USM’s campus center. But USM President Richard Pattenaude canceled the exhibit last Friday after law enforcement agencies and others said it was unfair to label Manning as a “political prisoner.”

Manning, who once lived in Portland, is serving 80 years in prison for the 1981 killing of New Jersey Trooper Philip Lamonaco. He was part of a group of political radicals that robbed banks and bombed buildings in the 1970s and early 1980s to protest racism and U.S. imperialism.

Raymond Luc Levasseur, an ex-convict who describes himself as a former political prisoner, helped organize the display.

It’s important to display Manning’s paintings to open up debate about political dissent, said Levasseur, of Portland, who was released from federal prison in 2004 after serving 18 years for a series of bombings during the 1970s and 80s.

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