LEWISTON — Protesters from Sunrise Maine and Sunrise Bowdoin rallied at U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ office here Friday to demand she strengthen her position on the Supreme Court vacancy.

The protesters marched from Alumni Walk on the Bates College campus, down College Street, Sabattus Street and Main Street to the office at 55 Lisbon St. Participants sported signs that read “Susan Collins this is your last chance,” “Vote like we matter” and “We are watching.”

Ali Manning, a sophomore at Bates College and a member of Sunrise Maine, was involved in planning the rally. She said the goal is for the senator to make a stronger promise to not confirm a nominee until after the election.

Sunrise Maine is a chapter of the Sunrise Movement, a national, youth-led climate justice organization that aims to stop climate change and fight for climate justice. Members of Sunrise Maine include students from Bates and Bowdoin colleges; Bowdoin College has a chapter of the movement called Sunrise Bowdoin.

A spokesperson for Susan Collins said she was one of the first Republican senators to state that whoever wins the election will pick the nominee, and has already stated she will vote no on any nominee before then.

Eric Fleischmann, a sophomore at Bates College in Lewiston, protests outside U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ office in Lewiston on Friday. The group which was comprised primarily of students from Bates and Bowdoin colleges demanded the senator strengthen her position on the Supreme Court vacancy. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Essentially, the two parties are in agreement. However, many protesters said they are concerned that they can’t trust Collins to stick to her word.

“What we’ve seen from Susan in the past is that she can change her tide really quickly after making promises,” Manning said. “She is incredibly unreliable.”

Mason Bunker, a sophomore at Bates College, was involved with the protest and said for him, the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh made it hard for him to trust Collins. He said he got involved in the protest because he wants to fight for his future.

The protest was about 45 minutes long and consisted of four speakers and multiple chants such as “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? After the inauguration!”

The speeches touched on issues such as LGBTQ+ rights, reproductive rights, the Affordable Care Act and minority rights – all issues the Supreme Court has seen.

Eric Fleichmann, a sophomore at Bates College, spoke about LGBTG+ rights as an example where protest and pressure have worked.

“It must not be forgotten that this expansion of liberty was instigated by the people – by the application of pressure by the people,” he said. “We must apply pressure. We must demonstrate democracy … All power to all the people. Susan Collins you are not what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like.”

Ali Manning of Bates College in Lewiston on Friday leads a call and response chant in Dufresne Plaza in Lewiston across from U.S. Sen. Collins’ office on Lisbon Street in Lewiston. Protesters from the Sunrise Movement were demanding that the senator strengthen her position on the Supreme Court vacancy. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Several drivers honked horns in support as they passed by, and people passing by joined the crowd to listen.

Sunrise member Lucie Nolden, a junior at Bowdoin College in Brunswick and who helped plan the rally, said it is part of a larger Sunrise effort happening nationally to pressure Republican senators into rejecting a nominee before the election. Four days ago, members of Sunrise Movement D.C. rallied outside the house of U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-South Carolina.

“We want to build upon the momentum,” Nolden said. “Obviously it’s really important to us as Sunrisers, as Mainers and as young people that the Supreme Court vacancy be filled by a progressive justice and not by a far-right justice that we know Trump is going to nominate.”

Manning said groups such as Sunrise Movement should be involved in issues outside of purely environmental problems because climate change is an intersectional issue.

“That is going to be impactful for the climate,” she said. “As a youth leader and someone who is part of Sunrise, I think it’s important that we’re looking at all of our avenues and our justice in an intersectional way.”

Lucie Nolden, right, participates in a protest at U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ office in Lewiston on Friday to demand that the senator strengthen her position on the Supreme Court vacancy. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Nolden agreed that climate issues are intersectional, noting that the Sunrise Movement is about environmental justice which expands into larger issues like human and environmental rights – all things the Supreme Court can set a precedent in.

“It’s all connected,” she said. “What we do at Sunrise is locate where the power is and focus our actions there.”

Both Manning and Nolden said a rally in the times of COVID-19 was a challenge, but they were willing to make it work. Participants were given a link to fill out with their name and phone number in case the organizers needed to contact trace.

“We are (taking) safety and masking pretty seriously,” Manning said.

“We’ve made it very clear in all the outreach that we’ve done that we expect every single person there to be wearing a mask and practice social distancing,” Nolden added.

Every protester at the event wore a mask or face covering.

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