PORTLAND – Frank and Pat Giordano of Newport were the first to arrive at the Portland Expo to voice their opposition to President Barack Obama and the health care law he came to Maine on Thursday to promote.
The couple, wearing matching American flag shirts, calmly endured the stares and whispers of the dozens of Obama supporters who gathered around them.
One woman told them "everyone" had taken a vote and decided the Giordanos should cross the street to hold their Styrofoam signs. Pat Giordano shook her head and held her sign, which accused Obama and Congress of enslaving future generations to pay off the trillions of dollars of national debt.
“Everybody is here for the same thing, to voice our opinion and stand behind what we believe,” she said. “At my age, I never thought I would be out here protesting. The way Congress has put us into debt — doing what the people say is one thing, but they are not; they are doing what they think the people want.”
Giordano said she and her husband first began protesting on April 15 last year at an anti-tax rally in August. Now, she said, they are part of an anti-government group known as the Maine Patriots and have plans to attend several upcoming events, including a trip to Boston to see Sarah Palin.
Later in the day, Richard Cross of Naples handed out bells for protesters to ring at a gathering of hundreds, organized by the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a conservative think tank.
“Two things motivated me (to come): the (U.S.) Constitution and this health care bill,” Cross said. “The Constitution is being undermined by Barack Obama in a variety of ways. Now he put this health care bill through to us, without us voting on it or Congress Republicans getting involved in it, mandating it to the states that we have to buy the insurance or be fined for it. This sets a precedent. When's it going to stop?”
The bells, he said, were to let freedom ring.
“That's what it was in 1776 in Philadelphia; that's why I'm here, defending the Constitution,” he said.
Both Cross and Giordano said the violent tone and rhetoric used by other protesters across the country was unnecessary.
“We should be able to sit down and talk civilly,” Cross said. “It's very important and I don't think we should go out there and start banging heads, because that's not going to get us anywhere. I think that's going to divide the country.”