From left, Bill Rixon, Molly Schen and Kathleen Sullivan demonstrate outside L.L. Bean’s flagship store on Black Friday. The group of retirees have been protesting Bean’s partnership with Citibank because of the bank’s investments in fossil fuel infrastructure. Rixon thinks it is antithetical to L.L. Bean’s mission as an outdoors brand to use Citibank for its Mastercard, which rewards shoppers with 4% back for all purchases at L.L. Bean. Luna Soley / The Times Record

Amid the hustle and bustle of Black Friday in downtown Freeport, a small group of people stood still amid the thousands of shoppers moving from storefront to storefront hunting for deals.

A small group of demonstrators has been protesting outside the L.L. Bean flagship store and corporate headquarters since September, pressuring the retail giant to call on Citibank – which the retailer partners with to offer its Bean Bucks Mastercard program – to divest itself from new fossil-fuel infrastructure.

“I’ve been doing this for two and a half months now and I’ve met more and more people,” said William Rixon, a retired high school physics teacher and Freeport resident “It’s really fascinating, all the people from out of town that I meet and have wonderful conversations [with].”

Rixon was joined Friday by Kathleen Sullivan, Tom Mikulka, Chuck Spanger and Molly Schen. Spanger and Mikulka cofounded Third Act Maine, the local branch of an organization that brings together Americans over 60 to campaign against climate change, in 2021. The group has nearly 800 members now, including Sullivan and Schen.

Sullivan, a retired psychotherapist, says she’s motivated to do this work to help others feel a connection with their environment.

“As a therapist, I’ve talked to people about relationships,” said Sullivan, “but I’d never asked people about their relationship with mother Earth.”

The campaign outside L.L. Bean was initially prompted by a letter that Mikulka sent to L.L. Bean CEO Stephen Smith in June, detailing Citibank’s “abysmal” standing among climate rankings worldwide. According to a report on fossil fuel investing by global banks, Citibank invested the second-largest amount between 2016 and 2022 – $332 billion – topped only by JP Morgan Chase.

Rixon said the group has not heard from L.L. Bean since Smith stopped to speak with Rixon outside Bean’s corporate headquarters, where Rixon was protesting with signs in October.

Chase is opening a new branch in Yarmouth on Tuesday. Rixon, Mikulka, Sullivan, Spanger and Schen plan to be there with their signs.

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