Wednesday, 21 March 2018 17:44

Federal court for Collins protesters Featured

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BANGOR - Three female protesters who were arrested at Sen. Susan Collins' office in December were in federal court in Bangor on Wednesday facing charges they refused to follow a federal officer's order to leave after the building closed.

Their attorney says the fact a federal officer was called in instead of local police was designed to silence their first amendment rights.

There were three after-hour protests at Collins' office in December where law enforcement were called. Five union workers were arrested for trespassing by local police during a sit-in on Dec. 4, and the District Attorney's Office later dropped those charges.

A week later, over a dozen University of Maine graduate students left when warned by a federal officer that they would be charged if they remained in the building after hours.

“Clearly people are continuing to show up and protest and remain in the senator's office after hours and we can't have that so we'll prosecute them federally and maybe that will quiet them down or scare them off or send them running for cover,” said defense attorney Logan Perkins, who is representing all three protesters.

Jessica Stewart of Bass Harbor, Sophia Fuller of Belfast and Sharon Dean of East Machias were arrested on Dec. 18. All three were told several times that they could leave and avoid being arrested. Dean's husband made the decision to depart and was not charged.

Stewart testified that she felt intimidated when a federal officer was called instead of Bangor police.

The Class C misdemeanor carries a penalty of up to 30 days in jail and or a fine of up to $5,000.

Arresting officer Gregory Theriault, an inspector for the federal protections service, testified he didn't handle either of the other December protests at Collins' office and that he was just doing his job.

“We're really hopeful that the judge will have heard our argument and will understand that this is a first amendment case about peoples, a citizen's rights to speak to their congresspeople about matters of critical importance,” said Stewart.

Justice John Nivison is expected to make his decision after written arguments are filed April.

Nit-Noi Ricker

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Nit-Noi Ricker is an Army brat who grew up on a farm in Winterport. She went to the University of Maine and the University of Northern Texas to learn how to be a journalist and started her career in Arizona at the Williams-Grand Canyon News, ...