EDITORIALS

LePage defense team sees enemies, not protesters

Nine protesters from Occupy Augusta were arrested on Blaine House property  on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2011.
Courtesy of Melissa Caswell
Nine protesters from Occupy Augusta were arrested on Blaine House property on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2011.
Posted Dec. 01, 2011, at 5:39 p.m.

If this were the 1960s, the people who were arrested jumping the fence at the Blaine House and unfurling a banner that read “End Corporate Rule Now” would immediately be given a name by the media. Remember the “Chicago Seven”? If the Maine People Before Politics group has its way, the protesters might be labeled the “Democratic Party Naughty Nine” or the “Enemies of LePage.”

Maine People Before Politics formed to support Paul LePage’s candidacy for governor. Its website quotes from the speech LePage gave after winning the election last November.

The group issued a press release with the headline, “MPBP calls on Democrats, Green Independent political leaders to call off operatives in Occupy movement.” MPBP is compelled, the release states, “to point out that this group of protesters [is] little more than a band of partisans determined to undermine a governor who hails from a different political party.”

The release asserts that protesters “are not simply concerned citizens taking direct action to influence public policy or public opinion. They are partisan extremists.”

The release includes dossiers on seven of the nine (and one who wasn’t arrested) in rhetoric that amounts to character assassination. And it defines the Occupy protesters only by their apparent opposition to the governor’s agenda, though there is scant evidence of that. Such a reduction of what are likely complex political views is insulting and small-minded.

James Freeman is derided as “a well-known political extremist” who is “an organizer for the Maine Green Independent Party.” Would GOP organizers be branded as political extremists?

Diane Messer is dismissed because she ran for state Senate as a Democrat.

Gregory Fahy, a University of Maine at Augusta professor who serves on an ethics committee at Maine General Medical Center “should probably … reflect on the fact that he was protesting against a governor who … [passed] a budget that repaid hundreds of millions of dollars in past debt to Maine hospitals.”

And on it goes. Michael Reynolds works for AbilityMaine, “which claims to work to help people with disabilities … [but] is more a place for the extreme left to organize.” Bar Harbor attorney Lynne Williams had tried a run for governor as a Green Independent, which proves, according to MPBP, that the protest is a “thinly veiled political attack.”

The language and logic are reminiscent of McCarthy-era denouncements. If a protester trying to call attention to wealth disparity and corporate influence over government is not a Republican who voted for LePage they are guilty, according to MPBP director Jason Savage, of “inflicting maximum political damage on a governor … working hard to create more and better jobs.”

It’s odd that the governor’s organized defense team is so quick to see the local manifestation of a national movement as relating only to him. It’s like a snowman believing the sun is out to get him. If you’re not for LePage, you’re against him. It’s Nixonian in its paranoia.

It’s also odd that those who speak passionately about the sanctity of the Constitution, such as tea party adherents who flocked to LePage in the election, often are willing to denounce those who exercise the rights enshrined in that document. The nine people arrested did not physically harm anyone. Had they done so, the outrage would be justified. They did not damage property. They trespassed, knowing they would be arrested for doing so. Such civil disobedience is a valid form of political expression.

Unless the governor is responsible for middle-class wages being stagnant since 1980, his defenders need not worry about the protesters.

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