Last Thursday I was arrested, with 18 others, in the Bangor office of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME). Pat Wheeler (Deer Isle) and I were the only two of our group
to actually get into the office. The others had to sit in the hallway outside the door. (See photos at this link of us inside the office -
high resolution images available upon request)
We first had a rally outside the office where over 75 people listened to speakers. Near the end of the rally one of our folks read a letter to Snowe that called on her to publicly admit she
had been lied to about the war; to stop the funding for the war; to bring the troops home now; and to declare that the war in Iraq is over. We also asked for a public town hall meeting to
discuss the war. Over 450 people around the state had signed the letter.
A representative from the senators office was invited to respond and she began reading what turned out to be a November 22 letter from the senator that once again justified the Iraq war.
(Our letter had been sent to the senator in advance so she could specifically comment on it. She did not address any of our concerns.)
As the senator's letter was being read I went up to the third floor office to check things out. I quickly discovered that the door had been locked and they did not intend on letting
any of us into their office following the outside rally. Soon enough one of the senators staffers flew up the stairs, knocked on the door, and when his fellow staffers opened the door to let
him in I stuck my foot in the door to keep it open. This move obviously was not greeted with great joy by the staffer and he told me that they'd let us into the office in a few minutes. I
told him I was not born yesterday. I kept pressing my foot harder, pushing the door open bit by bit, and I was soon joined at the door by Pat Wheeler. We eased our way into the office and
the staff quickly slammed the door shut and locked it. Soon about 50 of the folks from outside made their way up the stairs, followed by media people, and they began knocking on the door
wanting in. The head of Snowe's office, Gail Kelly, kept yelling at us, "You are not going to take over my office" and then went to the door, opened it just a bit, and began yelling at the
folks in the hallway that they had to leave. They did not leave and sat down and began singing.
Inside the office Pat and I took turns trying to communicate with the staff. It was not long before the police arrived to guard the door on the inside to make sure more of our group did not
come into the office. Pat read a letter from a GI killed in Iraq, his last letter to his family. I read a speech by my hero Eugene Debs from June 16, 1918 when he spoke out against WW I.
Debs was arrested and prosecuted under the Sedition Act for interfering with the draft and got a 10-year prison sentence and loss of his U.S. citizenship. (He ended up serving 2 years and 8
months in jail.)
Pat and I also joined in singing with the group outside the door and watched through the glass as more police arrived and began arresting the folks in the hallway. By 4:00 pm Pat and I
decided to go out into the hallway and join the last of the group being arrested and we too handcuffed and taken to the Penobscott county jail. We had to pay a $40 bail bond and were all out
by 7:00 pm. We have a January 20 arraignment in Bangor.
I went home with fellow jail-bird Dud Hendrick who lives on Deer Isle. I stayed with him and his wife Jean and then was joined by my partner Mary Beth on Saturday. Several others came as
well and we had a wonderful gathering at the home of Pat Wheeler where she had us do an art project together and then we spent Sunday morning strategizing our next moves. We ended the
meeting with a three-mile walk along the beautiful rocky coastline and then headed back home.
All in all it was an action-packed and moving few days. It was an honor to be in the midst of such great folks and I can say with confidence that we will not give up the important effort to
end this illegal and immoral war in Iraq.