Protesters Descend on Blaine House in Support of Refugees
On this Thanksgiving eve, about a hundred people picketed the front lawn of the Blaine House to protest Governor LePage's opposition to allowing ten thousand Syrian refugees admittance to the United States.
The protesters say compassion should trump fear of the refugees who are escaping what amounts to a holocaust in their country. Susan Sharon has more.
Some took their lunch breaks to pick up signs and line up in front of the Blaine House at noon. Others, like eighth grader Jade Kurtzer of Winthrop had the day off from school.
"My sign says, If we can be warm, you can be warm, too," Kurtzer says. "Since we are all dressed warm and we have a warm place to sleep, I think that the refugees should be able to have a warm place to sleep, too. They are welcome here if they need to come here."
But recent polls by Bloomberg and NBC news find that a majority of Americans oppose President Obama's plan to allow ten thousand refugees entry to the United States over the next year. Governor Paul LePage is one of them. Last week he used his regular radio address to make his position clear:
"In light of the attacks in Paris, France, I think the president's actions are irresponsible."
LePage says he, along with more than two dozen other governors, are skeptical that the U.S. has an adequate screening process to root out terrorists. And the U.S. House of Representatives, with the support of 47 Democrats, passed a bill to make it nearly impossible for the refugees to settle here.
"I came down today because I feel that our governor's position and the position of so many other officials is absolutely ridiculous," said Harry Grimmnitz of Readfield. He says LePage and other political leaders are pandering to irrational fears and stereotypes.
"It's completely backwards to believe that we are at risk of being harmed here in Maine by refugees who are escaping the absolute holocaust that they've been escaping for years," Grimmnitz said.
Passing motorists mostly honked in support of the picket line but several denounced the refugees. "We don't want them!" one person yelled. Marty Soule of Augusta says she understands why.
"The people who speak out against refugees are speaking out of fear," Soule says. "I don't think these people care less than I do. It's just that they - they need to look deeper at how our country started, at how our country grew."
Third grader Elliot Carignan of Fairfield says it's unfair to keep refugees away. Attending the rally with her grandmother, she also carried a homemade sign. "We are not afraid," it said.