More than a year ago, 12 Mainers were arrested on criminal-trespassing charges when they refused to leave the Bangor office of US Senator Susan Collins, in an act of civil disobedience. They were protesting the war in Iraq, and urging Collins to do her part to bring American troops home.
After their arrest (which Collins’s office later blamed on security officials at the Margaret Chase Smith Building; a Collins staffer was willing to stay all night), six protesters chose to pay a fine, ending their legal troubles. But the “Bangor Six,” as they’ve since been dubbed, chose jail over the fine; on Tuesday, those six had their day in court. If convicted, they face the possibility of six months in jail or a $1000 fine. (At deadline time, the hearing was scheduled to continue on Wednesday — see thePhoenix.com/AboutTown for the outcome.)
The defendants claimed they felt obligated, under international laws banning war crimes, to demand Collins take action, according to a release sent out after Tuesday's testimony.
Bangor Six supporters held a rally on Tuesday outside the Penobscot County Courthouse, organized by independent US Senate candidate Laurie Dobson; several defendants and Tom Ledue (who is challenging another protester-arrester, Tom Allen) were among the speakers. Peace activists attending the rally and trial were asked to “consider how any disruptive behavior might impact the jury.”
Meanwhile, a lone-wolf activist unconcerned with juries will make his way down to Washington DC this week for a personal celebration of the American Bar Association’s annual Law Day, held on May 1. Fifty-seven-year-old Windham resident Michael Dee hopes to hand-deliver a petition to the US Supreme Court on Law Day, in which he will claim that marijuana is personal property that falls under the protection of the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution (which bars unreasonable searches and seizures).
“They’ve deprived me of rights,” he said on the phone earlier this week. Dee has been prosecuted for marijuana possession, and his home has been searched by federal officials, both in Maine and in Wyoming, where he lived in the 1980s. “It’s unreasonable government intrusion,” he says.
The legal particulars remain somewhat murky, and Dee lacks the institutional support of national marijuana-rights organizations such as the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) or the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Nor has his argument fared well in either Maine or Wyoming. But Dee hopes the highest court will agree to hear his case.
Those who want to push for pot-smoking rights a bit closer to home can attend Saturday’s Global Marijuana March in Monument Square; at noon, Portlanders will join people in at least 237 cities worldwide in calling for legalization of cannabis. We’ll bring the Doritos!