AUBURN — For 16-year-old Michael Kelley of Auburn, the simple act of standing beside Lewiston-Auburn's busiest stretch of road and holding a sign is an act of defiance.
"I've been bullied," Kelley said, standing at the center of Longley Memorial Bridge. "I know for a fact it really hurts. This gives me a chance to fight back."
His sign read: "#NoBull," a reference to a new Twitter and Facebook identity that has taken aim at online bullying. But "NoBull's" first target — a Twitter account called "@LewistonBitches" — has been the talk of Edward Little and Lewiston high schools.
Since last Tuesday, when the account began posting venomous comments about Lewiston cheerleaders, the site has logged hundreds of comments from dozens of online identities. It has spawned copycat sites for Edward Little and Leavitt Area High School.
"Everybody is just raving mad about it," said Ashley Pelletier, a 17-year-old Edward Little junior who protested with Kelley on Thursday afternoon.
The worst online comments have included racist and sexist remarks. Most are profane. Some posts referred to the "'hoe' of the day." Some ranted about the sexual orientation of individuals while others angrily told one site host to "go kill yourself."
"It's sickening," said Samantha Laverdure, a 17-year-old senior at Edward Little. "It makes me sad to know that some people think like that."
It has caught the attention of school officials and local police, who have been searching for the anonymous creator of the online community.
"Most of our students are really angry about this," said Gus LeBlanc, principal of Lewiston High School. "They don't support it. They see it for what it is."
LeBlanc has twice called Twitter to request that the material be removed. Steve Galway, an assistant principal at Edward Little, has also called Twitter. They've received no response.
"I'm not sure they really care that much," LeBlanc said of Twitter's administrators.
School technical staffs have been searching for the culprit, but without Twitter's help, the creators of the vicious sites will stay anonymous, Galway said.
At Edward Little, all social media are blocked to anyone who logs into the school's Wi-Fi signal. At Lewiston, the school's computers come with tracking software that exposes the identity of the user and where they roamed on the Internet.
But students at both schools are allowed to bring cellphones to school and many can access Facebook and Twitter. And of course, many students have computers at their homes, too.
"It may not even be somebody in school now," Galway said.
Leavitt Area High School Principal Eben Shaw said that he, too, wants to know who is writing the posts. However, given his school's smaller site and fewer posts, he believes fewer Leavitt students are involved.
"I don't believe it's reached the same place as the Lewiston and EL ones, probably because we were the last one and people were looking out for it," he said.
Since last week, "@auburnangels" popped up as a nice response to the other sites. And in Poland, perhaps in an effort to seize control of the name, someone started "Polandbitches," but kept its conversation kind.
Meanwhile, the "#NoBull" participation is growing.
Samuel Chamberlain, an Edward Little senior who helped create the site, said he hopes the anti-bullying account will make an impact.
"(Online bullying is) becoming more and more awful," he said.
Police are waiting for an identity and someone to summons.
"We're monitoring the Twitter feeds," said Deputy Chief Jason Moen of the Auburn Police Department. "If we get somebody who wants to come forward and press charges as a victim of harassment or criminal threatening or terrorizing, should it rise to that level, we would definitely take the appropriate action."
Chamberlain believes the creator of all this hatred deserves prosecution.
"He or she needs to appear in a courtroom in front of a judge," he said.