Tax protesters arrested at Sen. Susan Collins’s regional offices

UPDATE 3:55pm, Dec. 10, 2018: Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy announced Dec. 10 that he will not prosecute the Bangor protesters; in exchange, the protesters will make donations to local charities for impoverished people.

Two separate acts of civil disobedience aimed at shaming U.S. Sen. Susan Collins over her vote in favor of the recent Senate tax bill led to a total of 14 trespassing arrests in Bangor and Portland earlier this week.

Protesters held a sit-in at the Republican’s Bangor office, beginning in the afternoon of Dec. 4 that culminated in the arrests of five people who refused police orders to leave, the Bangor Daily News reported.

“We are staying until we talk to Senator Collins by phone or in person unless we are arrested,” Jim Betts, a protester from Winthrop, told the Bangor Daily News before he was arrested later that night “I’m shocked Senator Collins would buy into that [bill].”

On Thursday, nine faith leaders representing the Baptist, Jewish, Lutheran, Methodist, Quaker, and Unitarian communities held a “pray-in protest” in Portland. The leaders were later arrested for criminal trespassing after a 10-hour vigil.

The Maine People’s Alliance posted a video in which the protesters are handcuffed while singing the gospel song “This Little Light of Mine.”

“In the United States we are experiencing a massive redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top, from the poor to the rich,” United Church of Christ Rev. Jim Gertmenian said in a statement. “The tax bill currently before Congress, if passed, will simply exacerbate that problem.”

“As a person of faith, I believe that this is an affront to God,” he added. “As an American, I believe that it will do profound damage to our country’s social fabric. We are better than this, and we must regain our moral footing.”

“As a person of faith, I believe that this is an affront to God. As an American, I believe that it will do profound damage to our country’s social fabric. We are better than this, and we must regain our moral footing.”United Church of Christ Rev. Jim Gertmenian

The Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill of the Methodist HopeGateWay community in Portland said, “We call on Senator Collins to do the right thing for her constituents and to listen to God’s call at this pivotal moment by opposing this unjust, immoral, and harmful piece of legislation that prioritizes the 1 percent of wealthiest Americans and greedy corporations over nearly all Mainers.”

Maine People’s Alliance Communications Director Mike Tipping told 50 States of Blue that the Portland protesters merit public gratitude for their action.

“The faith leaders who were arrested in Senator Collins’ office deserve our thanks for doing everything they can to oppose this immoral legislation,” Tipping said. “It is unconscionable that she would vote for and continue to defend legislation that is so damaging to Maine seniors, students, small businesses and to the health care of every Mainer.”

A separate protest on Friday outside Collins’s Portland office drew about 30 people, but did not result in any police action, the Portland Press Herald reported. Student demonstrators from Bowdoin College in Brunswick presented a staffer with a cake for Collins’s 65th birthday the previous day with a frosting top that read #goptaxscam.

Collins was in Washington, D.C. at the time of the protests. In response to the Bangor sit-in, which was organized by the Maine AFL-CIO and Mainers for Accountable Leadership, Collins said, “I always welcome hearing the views of my constituents.”

“This is an opportunity for me to let them know that a single mom with one child earning $35,000 would receive $1,100 back from the government, rather than owing income tax, which would certainly be helpful to her in making ends meet,” Collins told the Bangor Daily. “In addition, under the Senate bill, a family with an income of $24,000 would no longer pay income tax.”

A Dec. 1 statement on her website further outlined Collins’s reasons for supporting the controversial Senate bill, which passed in the early hours of Dec. 2 by a vote of 51-49.

“I don’t think there is a single American who thinks that our current tax code is fair, simple, or promotes economic growth,” the statement read. “We need a tax system that will boost the economy, help the middle class, and encourage small businesses to grow and create jobs. If we stimulate the economy through tax reform, we can significantly increase federal revenues while boosting Americans’ take-home pay.”

Maine’s junior senator, Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King, opposes the bill. The state’s lower chamber legislators are also split, with Democrat Rep. Chellie Pingree standing in opposition to the House’s tax reform plan while Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin supports the overhaul.

Senate and House lawmakers will meet publicly at 2 p.m. on Wednesday to work out a package that will resolve differences in their separate tax plans.