BANGOR, Maine — There are people in Maine and across the country who are fed up. They are fed up with taxes. They are fed up with President Obama’s spending initiatives. They are fed up with their local elected officials, who they feel haven’t done enough to stop the prevailing tax-and-spend ways.
That anger was brought to light in a very public way on Wednesday with a nationwide series of protests that evoked demonstrations of the country’s Founding Fathers. Reminiscent of the famous Boston Tea Party that protested taxation without representation, Republican and conservative groups all over the U.S. held “tea parties” on April 15, a day commonly referred to as Tax Day.
In Bangor, as many as 300 people protested outside the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building on Harlow Street and then marched to the banks of the Kenduskeag Stream to dump tea into the water.
Only a small amount of loose tea was actually dumped into the water, and the protestors did receive a permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, but the gesture was largely symbolic.
“People are fed up,” said Lois Bloomer, president of the Maine Federation of Republican Women and one of the organizers of the Bangor event. “We’re taxed enough. I hope our politicians are paying attention.”
Trevor Bragdon, representing the conservative policy group Maine Leads, circulated petitions in support of two tax initiatives. One would cut automobile excise taxes roughly in half and the other, known as TABOR, would require citizen approval of all tax increases. Both will be voted on in November.
“I think taxes have always been a big issue,” he said. “But, I think with the economy, people are taking a stronger stand. One of the great things about Maine is citizens’ initiatives. If we feel our elected officials are not doing enough, we can gather signatures and push issues.”
Arden Manning, executive director of the Maine Democratic Party, offered a response to Wednesday’s protests.
“While President Obama and Democrats in Washington are working to turn our economy around, Maine Republicans are sitting back and drinking tea, pining for the failed trickle-down economics of the past, while offering no real solutions of their own,” Manning said. “What’s more, the president passed tax cuts which will take effect more quickly than any other in American history, and which will put money back in the pockets of working families, helping to give them a hand up.”
If there was a common theme at Wednesday’s protest in Bangor, it wasn’t immediately clear, although government spending was a common refrain. Signs read, “T.E.A. — Taxed Enough Already” and “Obama wants change … that’s all I have left now” and “How about a 90 percent tax on Congressional pay?”
One protester, Dan Chase of Levant, was upset with the policy at the federal building of not letting more than five people at a time in to see their senator.
After the tea protest, he came to the Bangor Daily News offices to complain that his right to see Sen. Susan Collins was violated by limiting the number of people allowed into the offices at one time to five. In a protest situation, he said, it watered down the group effect.
At the very least, he added, someone from Collins’ office should have come down and listened to them, especially because there was such a large number of protesters.
Carol Woodcock, state office representative for Collins, said Wednesday that the policy has been in place for years.
“Our job is to maintain a good sense of decorum, but it’s also worth mentioning that we’re not the only ones in the building,” she said.
Jesse Graham, representing the Maine People’s Alliance, said Wednesday’s events do not reflect the view of most Mainers.
“Mainers value our strong communities and believe in helping one another and pulling together to bring an end to the economic crisis,” he said. “Conservatives lost in the last election because they couldn’t offer solutions to the economic problems facing our nation and our state. There’s no taxation without representation going on here, just sour grapes.”