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LONG NIGHT SITTING-IN

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It was a 17 and 1/2 hour office occupation that began just after the lunch hour Thursday in Portland, Maine. We gathered outside the office of our Rep. Tom Allen's office at around 11am and began handing out leaflets and holding signs calling for an end to funding of the Iraq occupation. Just as we were ready to enter Allen's office to sit-in we learned that he had decided to vote against any more funding for the occupation unless there was a "withdrawal goal timeline" in the bill. Even though this was not exactly what we wanted, these timelines are non-binding, it was still progress and we decided to move on to the next target. The vote was supposed to happen yesterday but has been delayed because the Democrats coalition is dissolving.

So we marched our way a few blocks to the office of Sen. Susan Collins, the Republican who has of course also voted over and again for the occupation funding. We entered the office with 20 people and jammed into her outer office waiting room. After a bit the staff of the senator invited us into their conference meeting room further inside the office. Two of her staff then asked us all to introduce ourselves and to state why we came. The statements made by the group were strong and moving and after we finished the staff promised they'd pass on the remarks to the senator and then invited us to leave. We said we needed to know how she planned to vote. The staff reluctantly replied that the senator would be "supporting the troops." We said we were not going to leave until the senator agreed to vote against anymore funding. The impass began.

We sat in the conference room and the staff left and closed the door. After an hour or so I suggested me might move out of the conference room, where we were highly contained, into the office itself where we'd be more of a bother to the staff. So we did and the staff was not at all happy about it.

By the early evening we were 12 people left and it was clear that they were not going to do anything to get us to leave because the senator, who is running for reelection this year, did not want anymore bad press after she had a week of it following the jury acquittal of the Bangor 6 who had similarly sat in her office last year and had just gone to trial and won their case.

The staff did make sure that we could not use the bathroom and kept a security guard on the front door so that if any of our folks left the office they'd not be allowed back in.

We spent the hours reading poems by those being held prisoner by the U.S. in Guantanamo and singing songs.


At 12:30 am some of the older women with us had to leave because they needed to go to the bathroom so badly. That left six of us. By 3:30 am we were down to 4 sitting-in. Actually we were laying on the floor trying to sleep by that time. At 4:30 am I had fallen asleep and one of the staff ran a chair on wheels into me as she continued her nasty tactics of intimidation. She had previously pulled a chair out from under my legs and taken my shirt off the back of one chair and thrown it onto a table. Then she turned the office TV up very loud onto an obnoxious commercial marketing station but one of our folks reached up and turned it off.

At 5:00 am the four of us left and went to the nearest diner and headed for the toilet and then had a well deserved breakfast. I was home by 6:30 am and spent much of the day sleeping.

As we were leaving the office of Sen. Collins early this morning her tired and very grumpy staffer, who had tried to run me over with the chair, was sitting by the door. I said "We'll see you next week." The look on her face was priceless.

We meet Saturday to discuss our next steps to continue our opposition to Iraq occupation funding. We can't forget the suffering Iraqi people and those GI's who are being sent back to Iraq for the 3rd or 4th time. This madness must end and we have a big role to play in making that happen.

Those with us yesterday included Mary Beth Sullivan, Karen Wainberg, Sally Breen, Phil Weyenberg, Selma Sternlieb, Debbie Leighton, David W. Chipman, Elizabeth Streeter, Suzanne Hedrick, Lawrence Reichard, Peter Woodruff, Laurie Dobson, Luke Gizinski, Julian Holmes, Jeffrey Soule Phillips, Ronnie Wilson, Mair Honan, and Louise Lora Somlyo.

 

Bruce Gagnon is the Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.

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