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Protest arrests outside Jared Golden's office highlight tensions in Maine over Israel-Hamas war

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, speaks to a reporter at his home, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, in Lewiston, Maine. Golden is being challenged by Republican Bruce Poliquin in the November election.
Robert F. Bukaty
U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, speaks to a reporter at his home, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, in Lewiston, Maine.

The arrests this week of seven protesters at Congressman Jared Golden's Bangor office is highlighting how tensions over the Israeli war with Hamas are bubbling up in Maine and across the nation.

All four members of Maine's congressional delegation have voiced strong support for Israel since Hamas militants killed more than 1,400 Israelis during terrorist attacks last month. But thousands of Palestinian children and civilians have been killed during the subsequent Israeli bombardments and invasion. So some activists are also calling on Maine's delegation to do more to push for a ceasefire in the war.

Dudley Hendrick of Deer Isle was among seven protesters who were arrested on Wednesday after refusing to leave Rep. Jared Golden's Bangor office.

"I am disturbed by him voting to support the funding of the war, not calling for a ceasing of fire and hostilities,” Hendrick said in an interview after his release from detention. “And in the end, I'm sure that's what prompted me and several others to visit."

The 82-year-old Hendrick, who faces criminal trespassing charges along with the six others, proudly acknowledges that he is no stranger to such acts of civil disobedience. A member of the Maine group Veterans for Peace and a Vietnam vet himself, Hendrick has, as he puts it, “ended up on the opposite side of the law” while protesting at Bath Iron Works and other locations. And while he said he was greatly disturbed by the Hamas attacks on Israel, Hendrick called Israel's military response "outrageous" and said opposes the billions of dollars in military assistance that the U.S. provides to Israel.

"Yeah, we are asking him to support the resolution that is calling for a ceasefire,” Hendrick said of Golden, a Marine Corps veteran. “And we are very disturbed that he is one of the 22 Democrats that voted to censure Rashida Tlaib."

Hendrick and fellow protester, Maine artist Robert Shetterly, both said Wednesday's event was planned before the House voted to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib. The Michigan Democrat is the only Palestinian-American member of Congress. But House Republicans introduced a censure resolution this week that accused Tlaib of "promoting false narratives" regarding the Hamas attacks on Israel. Dozens of her fellow Democrats also criticized Tlaib for posting a video on social media showing protesters chanting "from the river to the sea," which many people regard as advocating for the elimination of the Israeli state.

Tlaib said she was heartbroken by the deaths on all sides of the conflict but accused her House colleagues of attempting to silence her for speaking up for innocent Palestinians. In the end, the censure resolution passed with the support of the vast majority of Republicans and 22 Democrats, including Golden. Maine's other Democratic member, 1st District Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, voted against the censure resolution.

Shetterly says he was offended by Golden's vote.

"All she had done was asked people in this country and our Congress to recognize the humanity of Palestinian people,” said Shetterly, 76, who was also arrested on Wednesday. “She wasn't defending Hamas or defending tactics or anything else."

In a statement, Golden said the phrase "from the river to the sea" calls for the destruction of Israel. Golden added: "That sort of language should not be tolerated by the House of Representatives. I stand firmly with Israel’s right to defend itself.”

Golden was singled out by the small group of protesters this week. But his strongly pro-Israel position is echoed by other members of Maine's delegation, including independent Sen. Angus King and Republican Sen. Susan Collins. All four members have also expressed concerns about the loss of innocent Palestinian lives. But during a visit to Israel in late-October, Collins held up a picture of a smiling 3-year-old Israeli girl named Abigail who was taken hostage after both of her parents were killed in the Hamas attacks.

"What kind of people commit such atrocities?” Collins said during a press conference in Israel with other members of Congress. “This is not a close call. This is a clear case. Hamas is a terrorist group and we must do all that we can to support Israel in its quest to eliminate Hamas."

Both Hendrick and Shetterly suggested that there could be additional protests focused on other delegation members in the future.