Sentenced to day in jail, protesters arrested in Collins’ office say it was their duty

On Friday, the Bangor federal court handed down a guilty verdict to Jessica Stewart, 38, Ridgely Fuller, 71, and Sharon Dean, 70, sentencing them to one day in jail for failing to obey a lawful order.

On December 19, 2017, the three refused to leave Senator Susan Collins’ Bangor office, where they were calling on her to vote against the tax plan. While the group was occupying her office, Senator Collins announced her support of the Republican plan, which slashed corporate taxes and paved the way for large cuts to social safety net programs such as food stamps and Medicaid.

When the charges were first handed down, the three released a statement declaring that they are “guilty of no crime,” but rather maintained: “When our leaders abdicate their responsibilities, citizens have obligations that transcend federal statutes, especially petty ones.”

They further explained, “the tax bill, in all likelihood, will result in the preventable suffering and even death of innocent Americans. Given that context, remaining in Collins’ office to speak with her was a lawful and reasonable action.”

The three convicted see the cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP) embedded in the House farm bill as a direct result of Senator Collins’ and Representative Bruce Poliquin’s vote for the tax bill.

“We are being hit over and over again with pieces of legislation that harm, or even result in the deaths of, poor and working class people in our communities,” Stewart said Friday. “The tax bill, our governor’s failure to enact the people’s mandate to expand Medicaid, the SNAP cuts in the farm bill, and more.”

“In this landscape,” Stewart continued, “people of conscience have a moral responsibility to hold our elected officials accountable through all nonviolent means available to us.”

Upon being sentenced to a day in jail, the three said they have no regrets and stated, “We stand in solidarity with all who resisted the passage of the tax bill and hope that many Mainers and people across the nation will be moved to take risks for a more fair society.”

Photo courtesy of Marie Follaytar Smith

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