FREEPORT, Maine — For the first time in more than 14 years, the Freeport flag ladies did not stand at the corner of Main and School streets Tuesday morning to wave American flags in observance of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Instead, the three women took their flags across Main Street to stand at the corner of Elm Street, creating distance from Liza Moore, who for the past three Tuesdays has stood nearby, holding posterboard signs such as “Syrians Welcome” and “ME (hearts) refugees.”
Moore, a Freeport resident whose former husband died in the 9/11 attacks, stood opposite the flag ladies throughout their hourlong Tuesday morning vigil. As national rhetoric about immigration grows more heated, Moore chose to emulate the flag ladies by taking to the street to show her support for immigrants and make the case that patriotism need not be exclusionary. On Dec. 8, she held a sign bearing an image of Anne Frank that urged passers-by to remember “Refugees are Not Terrorists.”
Moore’s former husband, James M. Roux, a Portland lawyer, Bowdoin College graduate and U.S. Army veteran, died when United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Moore and her husband, Arnold Macdonald, a Portland lawyer, work with the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project “against attempts by people … to limit refugees’ access to Maine,” she said. “These refugees are like Anne Frank — denied access to the U.S.”
“People think all immigrants are Muslim,” Moore said. “Some groups whitewash them as foreigners and don’t believe we should be supporting them with public funds.”
On Tuesday, as was the case on Dec. 8, Moore stood across Main Street from the flag ladies because the location drew so much traffic and she hoped to attract attention to a cause about which she, her husband and her son feel strongly. This week, when she stood in the spot they usually occupy, they moved.
The flag ladies did not appreciate her presence. Elaine Greene, who typically speaks for the trio, said Tuesday that Moore intentionally chose the same date, time and corner where the flag ladies have stood since 2001 to antagonize the women and their supporters — and to distract from their message.
“It’s her way to harass us because her son can’t,” Greene said. “This is not an accident. This is not freedom of speech. This is backdoor harassment against us because we have an order of protection against her son.”
Greene and the other two self-proclaimed flag ladies — JoAnn Miller and Carmen Footer — have requested a protection from harassment order against Moore’s son James Roux III.
Roux was arrested Sept. 11, 2015, during a 9/11 ceremony featuring the flag ladies at the Freeport public safety building. Police said at the time that they handcuffed Roux and took him from the building because he disrupted a speech. The Cumberland County district attorney later declined to pursue charges.
On Dec. 1, Roux stood opposite the flag ladies on Main Street with his mother and held signs supporting refugees. After that, the two encountered the flag ladies in a nearby coffee shop. Moore and Greene each denied initiating the exchange that followed, but it prompted Greene, Miller and Footer to seek a temporary protection from harassment order against Roux.
Freeport police have issued “a few” official trespass warnings to Roux in the last few years, Freeport police Detective Gino Bianchini said Tuesday. The specific number of warnings was not immediately available, he said.
Greene characterized the incidents as attempts by Roux to “terrorize” the three women.
Roux has repeatedly declined to speak with the Bangor Daily News. In a Sept. 22, 2015, letter published by the Portland Press Herald, he described himself as “a pacifist and a patriot,” and said that he objected to the Sept. 11 ceremony’s “program of military force” and its “exploitation of 9/11 victims, such as my father.”
“Definitely, the flag ladies being out here every Tuesday picks a scab,” Moore said on Dec. 8.
Adam Libby, also of Freeport, walked through the icy rain at about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday to offer Moore his support.
“The flag ladies are really more about the military complex than 9/11,” Libby said. “It’s good to see another viewpoint. This is America — we’re all immigrants.”
But several others stood with the flag ladies across the street from Moore. Among them was Mike Doten and his daughter Lillian, who attends Mast Landing School in Freeport, where Moore is a part-time computer teacher.
“I think she’s really rude and lazy,” Doten said of Moore. “She can’t think much of her ideals if she’d hijack something like this. This is about patriotism. She does not care about the whole refugee situation. If she did, she’d be out here multiple days, at different times.”
Doten said he planned to contact the Mast Landing School principal to complain about Moore.
“If she wants to go ahead and have that idea, that’s fine, but this is mean and evil and vile,” Doten said. “It shows a character I don’t want in my daughter’s school.”
Moore said her effort to call attention to the refugee crisis has nothing to do with her work, and she doesn’t bring her signs to school. But she plans to keep showing up in downtown Freeport on Tuesday mornings through Christmas, she said.