In an email to alliance organizers, the NRCM told them, "While we support the energy and motivations behind this event, this rally, with its broader message, may confuse some of those with whom we work" — meaning confuse the legislators.
Not all progressive groups were approached. Environment Maine's Emily Figdor says her organization wasn't, but "we're spending about 24/7 working to stop the tar-sands project."
The event gave evidence of broad progressive ferment. For example, tar-sands-oil opponents were well represented at the rally and appear to be rapidly strengthening in Maine, even though the pipeline's use of the oil is just a possibility.
Along with several other environmental groups, the Maine chapter of 350.org is planning a Portland rally and march January 26 to protest both the local environmental threat of the toxic tar-sands oil potentially being pumped through Maine and, on the larger scale, the threat of the contribution to global warming in the oil's Canadian extraction.
Besides 350.org, other groups represented at the rally included Code Pink (an anti-war women's group), Defending Water for Life (anti-East-West Highway), Maine Greens, the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, several Occupy groups, Native Americans of the Idle No More movement, and opponents of a giant liquefied-gas tank proposed for Searsport on Penobscot Bay.
Independent Representative Jeff Evangelos, of Friendship, was one of the few legislators who stopped to talk with ralliers. "Pretty much I'm on board" with them, he said in an interview.
Michael Brennan, Portland's mayor, also stopped by. A former Democratic senator, he had just participated in a State House press conference protesting state-budget cuts that would hurt local education funding.
Although Brennan said city government would have no "direct control" of what goes through the Portland-Montreal pipeline, the city might want "to limit the purchase of products" derived from tar-sands oil. He's personally opposed to such a use of the pipeline.
As Representative Henry Beck, an up-and-coming young Democrat from Waterville, observed alliance members entering the State House, he said he appreciated "people caring about climate change."
"I think it's exciting" for the alliance to be not just activist but "pro-active" on the first day of legislative business, said Emily Cain, the Democratic senator from Orono who last year was House minority leader.
In the Hall of Flags, near the bust of former Governor Percival Baxter, a dozen Native Americans from the Wabanaki tribal confederation chanted, at full volume, songs honoring Mother Earth.
Maria Girouard, of the Penobscot Nation, said the Idle No More movement, which originated in Canada, was bringing together environmentally and social-justice-concerned Native Americans in Maine for a broad progressive push. (See "Indigenous-Rights Movement Grows," by Deirdre Fulton, January 11.)
The Alliance for the Common Good will have a meeting in early February to determine what comes next. Its future depends, Lew Kingsbury said, on what the Legislature does. Lobbying would be a logical next step. Kingsbury said he's trying to get a legislator to sponsor a bill to repeal the open-pit mining law.
Commenting on the rally, Seth Berry, the House majority leader, reminisced in an email to the Phoenix that when he was ten years old he learned to type so he could write a letter to Governor Joseph Brennan urging him to shut down the Maine Yankee nuclear plant —"and then walked 30 miles from the power plant to the State House."