ELLSWORTH, Maine — Eight demonstrators spent an hour of their Christmas Day holding signs and waving at passers-by on the Union River Bridge. Their signs called for an end to military conflicts and the return of war dollars to American soil.
“That’s been our focus — bring our war dollars home,” said Starr Gilmartin of Trenton, who was holding a sign that said “$1 trillion = cost of current wars.”
Some demonstrators were members of the Occupy movement and protested the American corporate financial structures. Others have been protesting American involvement in overseas conflicts since the war in Vietnam.
Russell Wray of Hancock has displayed signs and flags on the bridge, which carries Main Street over the Union River, since the United States sent troops to Afghanistan a decade ago.
He said it’s a tradition for area demonstrators to come to the bridge for a few hours on Sundays before walking up the street to a local park. Christmas didn’t stop that tradition.
“It’s a holiday for us, it’s not much of a holiday for the troops overseas,” Wray said as a light snow fell in Ellsworth.
The demonstrators argued that Christmas was a good time to spread their message and to remind people to think of those who might be struggling during the holidays with poverty, hunger or separation from family.
Roads were lightly traveled in Ellsworth on Sunday, but many passers-by honked in approval as they drove over the bridge. A few drivers held their hands up to their windows with thumbs pointed down.
Demonstrators said the Ellsworth community has proved to be more supportive than some others over the years.
“It’s a small sacrifice to come out here and bring attention to the insanity of war and corporate influence,” Wray said, adding that he believed the government is “at war against taking care of our own people in this country.”
Spending a cold Christmas afternoon displaying their messages showed their “commitment to educate the public,” Gilmartin said.
Most of the demonstrators left the bridge around 1 p.m. to meet family and friends to celebrate the holidays.