June 06, 2020
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Prosecutor strikes deal with Bangor protesters who occupied Collins’ office

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.

The Penobscot County district attorney will not prosecute the five protesters arrested Monday at U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ Bangor office, he said Friday.

In exchange, the protesters each will make a donation to a local organization that serves people in poverty.

“We feel that this is a reasonable solution to the situation at hand,” District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said. “We were able to accomplish this solution because of the graciousness of Senator Collins, the understanding of Mark Hathaway, the chief of the Bangor Police Department, and the pragmatism of the protesters.”

Hathaway said after Almy’s press conference that he agreed with the district attorney’s decision in this case.

“It generates donation to those who need it most,” the chief said.

The Bangor protesters staged the sit-in to protest the Maine Republican senator’s support for the Senate’s tax package, which critics say would tilt too much toward the extremely wealthy. The demonstrators were taken to the Penobscot County Jail and released Monday night on personal recognizance bail.

Sarah Bigney, 33, of Hallowell; Nicholas Paquet, 39, of Benton; Tina Davidson, 47, of Portland; James Betts, 66, of Winthrop; and Erin Oberon, 37, of Old Town, were charged with criminal trespass.

In a press release issued on the protesters’ behalf, Betts, a veteran and retired worker from Winthrop, said: “This bill threatens the social security, Medicare and Medicaid of hundreds of thousands of Mainers, all to give tax cuts to those at the top. We should all be raising our voices as loud as we can.”

Almy called the deal “a reasonable solution” to the case.

“The people that were affected directly by it [staff in Collins’ office] would just as soon have it resolved quickly without a lot of fuss and go on to other things that they are interested in or concerned with,” he said.

The night before the deal was announced, nine faith leaders were arrested after refusing to leave Collins’ Portland office in a protest over the tax plan. They were taken to the Cumberland County Jail and released on personal recognizance bail.

Almy said Friday that he had spoken with Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie and had told her what he was going to do. Almy said he did not know if her office would offer the same deal his did.

The protesters plan to announce their chosen charities on Monday.

Bigney, of Maine AFL-CIO, organized the Bangor protest with Mainers for Accountable Leadership.

The Class E crime of criminal trespass carries a sentence of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

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