With the sun dipping below the skyline in downtown Portland, temperatures fell below freezing as 13 Bowdoin students and Southern Maine community members shifted uneasily, half trying to stay warm, half nervous for the political action they were about to undertake.
Maddie Hikida ’22 organized a group of concerned citizens from South Portland, Raymond, Brunswick and Biddeford to gather in front of Senator Susan Collins’ (R-ME) Portland office this Thursday afternoon to demand more accountability for President Donald Trump’s impeachment hearings.
The students met with Peter Warren, Collins’ regional manager, to hand over a list of demands, expressing concern about the senator’s vote in the impeachment hearing as well as Collins’ general accountability to the Maine citizenry.
Senators are expected to vote today on the inclusion of witnesses in Trump’s impeachment hearing, a vote predicted to strictly follow partisan lines. Four Republican senators are needed for the democratic motion to succeed. Should it fail, there is a strong possibility that the impeachment trial will be pushed to conclude later tonight.
In the document presented to a staffer for Collins, the protestors called for prioritizing Collins’ constituency over party loyalties. The petition states: “We demand that you use your position to push for witnesses in the Trump impeachment trial. We demand that you stand for us .… If you refuse to meet our demands, we will vote you out.”
Described by Hikida as “non-partisan,” the group consisted of members from Maine Youth Strikes, Sunrise Maine, Sunrise Bowdoin, the Maine People’s Alliance, Impeachment Now, Indivisible Maine, Veterans for Peace and 350 Maine. The protesters describe Collins’ unwillingness to call for witnesses as an action based on D.C. political donations rather than loyalty to her constituency.
Stephanie Miles, recently hired as the Sunrise Movement regional manager, expressed worries about the senator’s allegiances.
“She should be listening to her constituents and still be doing her duty as a public servant,” she said.
Miles described the action as a way to “galvanize the local community,” during a time of uncertainty and extreme partisanship.
Peter Morgan, a resident of Raymond, Maine and representative for Veterans for Peace, commented on the senator’s political stance surrounding this particular issue.
“Well it’s deplorable. I mean the whole process. My generation’s legacy is an embarrassment,” he said.
Morgan emphasized that his role was to support the protesters and to help out with bail, should they be arrested. No students were arrested on Thursday, a departure from previous Sunrise actions, such as the sit-in outside of Collins’ Washington D.C. office in September 2018, which resulted in the arrest of 10 Bowdoin students.
Following last week’s event, Hikida said the group did what they came to do.
“We delivered our demands, made comments, sang a song and didn’t get kicked out or arrested,” she said.
The protesters concluded their action by singing in the cold in front of the senator’s office, chanting lyrics such as “I hear the voice of my great-granddaughter saying call forth the witnesses now!” and “When the people rise up, the power comes down … We’re gonna rise up till it’s won.”