February 25, 2018
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Protesters arrested for sit-in at Collins’ office released on bail

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
Bangor Police officers are visible in U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ Bangor office as they are arresting people who staged a sit-in protest at the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building in Bangor Monday.
By Callie Ferguson
Updated:

The five protesters arrested Monday for staging a sit-in in Sen. Susan Collins’ Bangor office were released that night and are due in court Jan. 17.

The demonstrators were released on recognizance bail, meaning they paid no money but agreed to appear in court and abide by conditions of release that stipulate they commit no crimes, according to the Penobscot County Jail.

Nothing in their conditions of release forbids the five protesters from returning to the federal building or Collins’ office.

Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy declined Tuesday to say whether the five would be prosecuted. His office has opted not to prosecute protesters in the past.

“I am unable to make any decisions on this situation right now,” he said. “We have no set policy. Each circumstance gets its own evaluation.”

Meanwhile, Annie Clark, the Republican senator’s communications director, said that Senator Collins “appreciates hearing from her constituents and respects their right to protest. In this particular situation, the Bangor federal building is run by the Federal Protection Services, and it was their decision alone to arrest the protestors. This is now a matter for law enforcement and the protestors to resolve.”

Sarah Bigney of Maine AFL-CIO, which organized the protest with Mainers for Accountable Leadership, said Tuesday morning that her group has not planned any more demonstrations.

Bigney, 33, of Hallowell was arrested alongside Nicholas Paquet, 39, of Benton; Tina Davidson, 47, of Portland; James Betts, 66, of Winthrop; and Erin Oberon, 37, of Old Town.

The group — along with a sixth person who left before police arrived — gathered Monday afternoon inside Collins’ offices at the Margaret Chase Federal Building at 202 Harlow St. to protest her vote to support the Republican tax bill. Collin was in Washington at the time and did not communicate with protesters.

Bangor police arrived around 7 p.m., after they were called by the Federal Protection Service. Clark said stressed that the police were not called by the senator’s staff.

Police informed protesters they were trespassing and ordered them to leave. When the protesters refused, they were arrested and taken to the Penobscot County Jail.

At 11:07 p.m., Bigney tweeted the group had been released.

https://twitter.com/sarahBMaine/status/937881139511005185

The district attorney’s reluctance to prosecute protesters unless they resist arrest stems from an April 2008 jury trial when protesters were found not guilty in a protest similar to Monday’s. In that case, six Iraq War protesters were charged with criminal trespass after they refused in May 2007 to leave Collins’ office in the federal building.

In May 2011, Almy dismissed charges against five wind farm protesters who blocked an access road the previous November and refused to allow construction vehicles to pass at the $130 million Rollins Mountain project in Lincoln. He made a similar decision in 2010 when he dismissed criminal trespass charges against five of six Plum Creek protesters.

In July, charges filed against 17 Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland were dismissed after two different judges were unable to repair a botched settlement agreement between the demonstrators and the Cumberland County District Attorney. The people arrested were part of a group of about 100 who gathered in Lincoln Park on July 15, 2016, then marched three blocks to the intersection of Pearl and Commercial streets, where they blocked traffic for several hours. They were charged with obstructing a public way

BDN writers Alex Acquisto and Judy Harrison contributed to this report.

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