LEWISTON — More than a dozen men and women dressed in leather vests stood outside the 8th District Courthouse most of the day Thursday.

They were there to show their support for children testifying as victims of abuse at family court hearings.

The bikers’ mission is to provide a sense of security and empowerment to abused children, a man who goes by the road moniker Mr. Clean, said.

The 47-year-old New Gloucester resident is president of the Maine Chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse.

Members of Bikers Against Child Abuse escort children and family members back to their vehicles Thursday afternoon after leaving 8th District Court in Lewiston. Over a dozen from the group stood vigil for over seven hours to show support for the children. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The motto of the global group is: “No child deserves to live in fear.”

The children in court Thursday had been “adopted” into the Bikers Against Child Abuse family, meaning children have been assigned two primary protectors and get their own leather vest with a patch sewed on the back and are assigned “road names,” like Mr. Clean.

As a member of the family, that child can make a phone call day or night that will be answered by someone they know will be looking out for them if they’re feeling frightened, Clean said.

“And then we help them through the process,” he said. “We’re there for emotional support, physical support, whatever they need to feel empowered to be able to stand up and do what’s right.”

Most abuse cases are thrown out of court “because the child feels intimidated, they can’t testify, they won’t testify, they’re scared,” he said.

“So, what we do is guide them through that process of having their family there with them so they can be empowered to stand up and say what needs to be said,” he said.

Members of Bikers Against Child Abuse wave to young children looking out a window Thursday in 8th District Court in Lewiston. They stood vigil for over seven hours to support children testifying in family court, escorting them from the courthouse to their homes. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The child’s two primary protectors often accompany them into the courtroom, as they did Thursday. In some cases, the judge may allow one of the primaries to sit by the child’s side on the witness stand when that child has to testify. Before the pandemic, a group of members might have appeared in the courtroom as they did in a 2018 case in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn.

“And when you actually see that firsthand,” Clean said, “There is nothing like it. You’re actually in the right place, doing the right thing.”

Some judges won’t allow bikers to wear their vests in the courtroom, so they are made reversible and can be turned inside out.

Although Bikers Against Child Abuse has a website through which families can reach out on behalf of an abused family member, sometimes case counselors will recommend the group for support and help connect the family with them, Clean said.

They represent children of all ages: infants through 18-year-olds. Some become members of the club after they turn 18 and provide the support they got to others.

The group doesn’t only show their support at the courthouse, Clean said.

Members of Bikers Against Child Abuse line both sides of Lisbon Street all day Thursday as they wait to escort children involved in abuse cases from 8th District Court on Lisbon Street in Lewiston. The group’s mission is to show support for victims testifying in family court. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

They will escort the child to the courthouse and home again. Sometimes the child will ride on one of the bikes.

They also throw parties for their adoptees, including at Christmas.

“A lot of times in the abused situations they’re in, they might not have Christmas,” Clean said.

They also make sure the children have birthday parties or they will visit them and drop off cards, “that tells them that we’re there for them.”

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