Another day and another group of protesters descended on Sen. Susan Collins’ office in Portland to express their unhappiness with the Maine Republican’s vote for the Senate version of a tax reform plan working its way through Congress.

The protest Friday drew about 30 people, predominantly students from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, and followed one Thursday that ended with nine religious leaders arrested at Collins’ office at One Canal Plaza. The religious leaders were charged with criminal trespass when they refused to leave at the end of the day when her office closed.

No one was arrested Friday. The students gathered outside the building where Collins’ Portland office is located, and chanted slogans such as, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, tax scam has got to go.” They then split into two groups to crowd into the small waiting area in Collin’s office. Some members of the first group inside read statements opposing the tax plan.

One protester, Calvin Soule of Cumberland, said his admiration for Collins based on her commitment to Mainers changed when she voted for the Senate tax plan, which critics say provides huge breaks to the rich and corporations, but few savings – if any – to low- and middle-income taxpayers.

“She has strayed from her duty,” Soule said.

The students also presented a cake for Collins – she turned 65 Thursday – with #goptaxscam written in the icing on top. Intern Ray Moca accepted on behalf of the senator, who was still in Washington, D.C., Friday, and put it inside the inner office after first asking if the protesters wanted any.


Then the second group flooded the office, spilling out into the hallway, and sang songs about the need to get rid of the tax reform plan. Finally, about an hour later, the group dispersed.

Thursday’s protest ended much later, after Collins’ office had closed for the day. One of those arrested, Molly Brewer, said the group was taken to Portland police headquarters around 9 p.m., processed and released about three hours later, after posting $60 bail. Brewer said one condition of their release is that they not be re-arrested within 60 days, a provision which she said may restrict her and other protesters’ involvement in future protests.

“I’m looking to move forward and engage in acts of moral resistance, where and when possible,” Brewer said.

The group, including several ministers, a rabbi and a Quaker minister, prayed and streamed their protest live on Facebook before Portland Police arrived around 8:30 p.m. Thursday to handcuff them and take them away.

Group members sang, “We are gentle, loving people, and we are singing for our lives,” as they were led away.

The group had planned to spend the night in Collins’ Portland office, refusing to leave when the senator’s staff departed for the day and locked the door behind them Thursday afternoon.


Collins talked to the group from Washington, D.C., via cellphone for more than half an hour and explained her position on the Republican proposal in a conversation that “Moral Movement Maine” streamed live on its Facebook page.

The Portland sit-in came three days after five people were arrested in Bangor after refusing to leave Collins’ office there. Late Friday, organizers said the five accepted an offer from Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy to make a donation to a local nonprofit addressing poverty in exchange for the charges being dropped.

Collins’ Portland office was occupied for much of the day Thursday, with more than a dozen people crammed into the small waiting room starting at 11 a.m. In response to the group’s live-streaming of their sit-in, people sent them pizza and chocolates.

Brewer said she hopes the protests at Collins’ office will make the senator reconsider her support of the Republican tax bill, which Brewer said represents a redistribution of wealth from the poor and working class to the wealthy. She also said a provision in the bill removing penalties for not buying health insurance will result in millions of people losing their health coverage. Collins said she voted for tax reform only after getting commitments from Senate leaders on measures to mitigate the impact of that change.

Protesters have said their aim is to get Collins to change her vote when the bill returns to the Senate floor. Both houses of Congress have approved their own tax reform bills, but will have to vote again after a conference committee works out a version that resolves differences between the House and Senate measures.

The tax reform plan passed the Senate last Saturday by a razor-thin 51-49 vote. If all other votes stay the same and Collins and another Republican change their votes to no, the proposal would fail. If Collins only switches her vote, Vice President Mike Pence would cast the tie-breaking vote, almost certainly in favor of the plan.

The nine arrested Thursday were: Christina M. Sillari, 54, of Portland; Joshua S. Chasan, 71, of Portland; Carie Johnsen, 54, of Augusta; James C. Gertmenian, 70, of Cumberland Foreside; Allen R. Ewing-Merrill, 47, of Portland; Diane L. Dicranian, 62, of Bath; Martha C. Soule, 67, of Readfield; Molly A. Brewer, 31, of Portland; and Jonathan W. Wright-Gray, 72, of Ocean Park.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at:

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