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Maine's Federal Lawmakers Respond To Protests And Trump's Planned Visit

Maine’s congressional delegation is defending the right to protest peacefully, but most have so far relied on written statements and tweets to express their opinions about recent demonstrations over police violence.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District, who agreed to an interview, said the right to protest is guaranteed by the Constitution, and that President Donald Trump’s use of an 1807 law to authorize military action against protests is improper.

Pingree said the Insurrection Act was intended to give presidents a tool to put down a revolution, not to clear a site for a photo opportunity.

“As he is saying, ‘I stand with peaceful protestors,’ he has military forces across the street in a park where people traditionally protest. They are doing so in a peaceful way before the curfew comes into D.C. and he is gassing them to get them out of the park,” she said.

Pingree said the president ordered demonstrators be dispersed so that he could hold a photo-op in front of a church that had been damaged in an earlier protest. She said she fears that his planned trip Friday to Guilford, where swabs used in COVID-19 tests are made, is just part of his reelection effort.

“If he was coming here to bring a message of unity, and talking about the challenging times in our country and how to bring people forward instead of doing what it appears like it will be — an attempt to have a political rally in the 2nd Congressional District,” she said.

Trump won the district in 2016, getting its single electoral vote.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine gave a speech in the Senate Monday on the importance of the right to peaceably protest, underscoring its constitutional protection. She said in an interview late Tuesday that the president should be trying to calm the situation.

“I don’t think it was the right thing to do for the president to stage this event last night in the midst of these peaceful protests,” she said.

Collins said she was upset to watch the use of military force to clear the area so the president could hold his photo-op. As for his visit to Maine, she said the governor has made it clear the visit poses a security risk, but does not know if the president will listen to her concerns.

Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine declined an interview request, his spokesperson said.

“Sen. King is yielding airtime and attention to the voices in the hotspots who deserve to be heard at this point, and sharing his thoughts primarily via social media right now,” the spokesperson said.

King was critical of Trump in several tweets, saying, “his callous use of a church and the Christian Bible as props in a political stunt which demeaned people of faith, degraded the office of the presidency, and insulted the American people.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District did not respond to a request for an interview. He did issue a statement Monday supporting the right of all Americans to peaceably protest.