A group calling itself Maine Patriots With Attitude vows to gather weekly outside the home of a school board member in the central Maine area to protest mask-wearing mandates in schools and says it held its first protest Thursday.

Nick Blanchard, 32, of Waterville, who founded the group, would not divulge where that protest took place. But he posted a recent video on YouTube arguing that attending school board meetings is fruitless and it’s time to escalate tactics to try to make school boards accountable for their decisions.

“Guys, we don’t have much time,” Blanchard says in the video. “They’re coming after our children, and it’s time we start making the school board members feel as uncomfortable as our kids do, going to school with masks on.”

Nick Blanchard, a Waterville man who’s the founder of the group Maine Patriots With Attitude, participates in a recent protest in Augusta. Photo courtesy of Nick Blanchard

Blanchard, who works at an equipment rental business, told a Morning Sentinel reporter last week that group members will have “blow horns” when they go to the homes of board members but they will not harass or intimidate anyone or be violent.

“I’m going to let his or her neighbors know who they’re living beside and what decisions they are making for our kids,” Blanchard, who refers to himself as Corn Pop, said. “They’re elected officials, and they should be voting the way we want them to.”

Blanchard said he has a young child not yet in school. He said he and others recently attended school board meetings in Skowhegan and Oakland and felt their concerns were disregarded.

Waterville Mayor Jay Coelho, at least one Waterville Board of Education member and a retired college professor took issue with the group’s plans to protest outside the homes of school board members.

“Everyone has a First Amendment right to gather, protest — I agree,” Coelho said. “I’m good with that. I do not like showing up at elected officials’ houses or attacking them when they’re out to dinner. We have elderly people on the board, and they should not be showing up at the end of their driveway.”

Coelho urged Blanchard to attend a Waterville Board of Education meeting to talk with members instead of protesting outside homes. He said Blanchard should come to his home instead of targeting school board members.

“Come protest my house,” he said. “You want to have an actual discussion, let’s sit down and discuss it. Stunts aren’t needed.”

Pamela Trinward, a member of the Waterville school board, said she has served on the board for a long time and “it’s very sad to me that it’s come to this.”

“To be honest, I think it’s horrific,” she said of the plan to protest at board members’ homes. “I think it discourages people from participating.”

Trinward said such conduct makes her nervous.

“We’d like to have more young people interested in civic engagement, and it discourages young people because if they have children, it would be very scary for them to have this going on,” she said.

Like Coelho, Trinward said if the protesters want to discuss issues, they may contact board members. Regarding the mask requirement, she said no one knows the long-term health effects on people who experience serious cases of COVID-19.

“We really want to serve our constituents whenever we can, but our first priority is to protect kids,” she said.

Waterville Public Schools has required mask wearing in all of its locations since before school started in the fall. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommended mask wearing in schools serving children in kindergarten through grade 12 whether staff and students are vaccinated or not. Waterville School Superintendent Eric Haley made the decision to require masks after conferring with the head nurse and a pediatrician and notified the school board of his decision with no objections from members.

Elizabeth Leonard, a retired Colby College history professor and local organizer with the Poor People’s Campaign, said she’s saddened by Blanchard’s tactics against “hard-working school board officials with whom he appears to disagree and whose decisions he apparently wants to control by intimidation, perhaps even by force.”

“We are living through an ongoing public health crisis, and it seems to me that the health and well-being of our children and our community should be at the top of the list of all our concerns,” Leonard said, later adding, “I can assure Mr. Blanchard that there are other more helpful ways he could spend his time and resources if he really wants to strengthen and advance the overall well-being of our community.”

Blanchard said in a phone interview last week that he and his group planned to hold its first protest outside a school board member’s home last Thursday, though he would not reveal where and when. He then said he would notify a Sentinel reporter of the location just before the protest, but he didn’t do so, instead of emailing the reporter on Friday to explain why.

“The group didn’t feel comfortable with having someone there, they are worried about how it will be twisted, last night was a small group but I think we was heard,” Blanchard said in the email.

Contacted last week, Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey said the group had not requested a gathering permit from the Police Department.


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