ELLSWORTH — Maine’s Democratic attorney general, Janet Mills, rallied a cheering crowd of 300 Saturday morning, quoting Martin Luther King, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and reggae legend Bob Marley as she ticked through a list of social, political and economic issues dear to the hearts of progressive voters.
The Hancock County Action Assembly was convened at the Ellsworth Elementary Middle School by Women’s March on Washington-MDI, Resources for Organizing and Social Change, the Hancock County Democratic Committee and the Maine People’s Alliance.
Mills was preceded at the microphone by Gardiner Mayor Thomas Harnett, who addressed recent acts of violence directed at immigrants.
“Hate is the new norm,” he declared.
“We call them foreigners, immigrants and refugees,” he said, “everything but human beings … they need to feel safe, valued, respected and loved.” Gardiner, he noted, is an official “welcoming community” for immigrants and refugees.
Harnett was followed by Sherri Mitchell, a member of the Penobscot Nation and an indigenous rights attorney.
“Tribal sovereignty rights are under attack,” she said, citing Arizona selling off “sacred Apache land” and the Standing Rock pipeline controversy in North Dakota. “Support candidates who respect rights,” she said, “including Mother Earth.”
Mills maintained the theme of rights in jeopardy.
“Many rights are at risk,” she said. “The biggest loser is truth.”
She spoke out in favor of a minimum wage that is a living wage and “the right to health care” without reliance on “bake sakes and collections in jars” to cover the cost of treatment.
Mills decried Maine’s infant mortality rates and the funding threat that looms over Planned Parenthood.”
She also spoke up for public education, retelling the Chinese adage that if you’re planning a year in the future, grow rice; 10 years into the future, grow trees; 100 years into the future, “educate children.”
Mills said voting rights, human rights and immigrant rights are all under attack as hate crimes increase. She defended the First Amendment and urged the gathering to “reject alt facts.”
“The power of the people is greater than the people in power,” she said, quoting Booker, senator from New Jersey.
She then called for everyone to stand and join hands as she sang, with reggae syncopation, Bob Marley’s 1973 call to action: “Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights! Get up, stand up: don’t give up the fight!”
The gathering then broke into smaller work groups to draw up action plans addressing economic justice, civil rights, indigenous rights, education, health care and the environment/climate.
Among those who turned out for Saturday’s event were — standing side by side — State Sen. Brian Langley (R-Hancock County) and State Rep. Brian Hubbell (D-Bar Harbor).