As the death toll in the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict continues to rise, the Maine Democratic Socialists of America (Maine DSA) and the Communist Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) held a rally in support of Hamas in Portland’s Monument Square Wednesday evening.
The militant Islamist organization Hamas launched a multifaceted terrorist attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, crossing over the Israel-Gaza border, including an attack on a music festival that killed at least 260 people.
“The corporate media and politicians want the public to believe that Israel is simply defending itself from ‘terrorism’ — that’s a lie,” Zach Campbell from Maine DSA, the rally’s emcee, said in his opening remarks.
“The actions of the resistance over the course of the last day is a morally and legally legitimate response to the occupation,” he said, referring to the Hamas offensive that killed over 1,300 Israelis.
Campbell led several chants to be echoed by the gathered crowd of socialists, including “When Palestine is occupied, resistance is justified,” and “Netanyahu you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide.”
A lone counter protester, Tyler Washburn of Harpswell, stood to the side of the protest carrying a sign reading “Israel deserves our support #NoToHamas.”
“When I was in high school, I had an English teacher who said if you see injustice stand up to it,” Washburn said. “After the tragedy that we saw on Saturday in Israel, I wanted to make sure that in Maine’s largest city, Mainers could at least see that other voices were represented in this discussion.”
“Overwhelmingly Mainers oppose what happened and stand with Israel, and I’m here to show that support,” he said.
“When innocent children are massacred, when moms can’t go back to their kids, dads are gone — there’s a time and place to have a civil discourse, and unfortunately I don’t think tonight is the time to be cheerleading for a side that committed atrocities,” he added.
Maine’s Democratic officials have, with a few exceptions, avoided commenting on the protest.
Democratic Maine Congressman Jared Golden issued a statement condemning the “Free Palestine” rally in Portland earlier Wednesday afternoon.
“The idea that any organization or group of people would seize upon the tragedy taking place in Israel and the suffering of the Jewish community to present a false equivalency between the government of Israel and Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran would be almost laughable were it not so sickening given the atrocities committed against the people of Israel these past few days,” Rep. Golden wrote.
“The kidnapping and public abuse, and the murder of women, children, and the elderly, even babies – entire families killed in their own homes; these are the brutal actions of Hamas, a violent militant organization elected and supported by the Palestinians living in Gaza,” Golden continued.
“There is no equivalent evil in the comparably reserved but necessarily strong military response by Israel in defense of its nation and its people,” he wrote. “Most of us would expect no less, perhaps even more if this were happening in America, and in fact, Americans have been killed and taken hostage.”
At least 22 Americans have been killed in the Israel-Hamas conflict, with at least 17 others unaccounted for, according to the U.S. State Department.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins also denounced Wednesday’s rally, saying that the left-wing organizers “should be condemning Hamas, rather than excusing these appalling tactics.”
State Rep. Austin Theriault, R-Fort Kent, who is challenging Golden in the 2024 race for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, blasted Golden for not calling out his party’s association with the Democratic Socialists of America.
State Rep. Mike Soboleski, R-Phillips, who is also running to unseat Golden, issued a statement Saturday, Oct. 7, condemning Hamas’ attack on Israel as “horrific and unconscionable.”
“Just weeks ago, the Biden Administration handed over $6 billion to Iran. This kind of foreign policy maleficence is unacceptable and must stop,” Rep. Soboleski said. “Israel has the right to defend itself against these terrorist attacks. I will always stand with Israel. America must always stand with Israel.”
“Tonight’s rally in Portland is a display of unacceptable hate by the left. It may be in line with Portland’s values, but it’s not in line with common sense folks in the rest of Maine,” Rep. Theriault said in his Wednesday statement.
“This is a Democratic Socialists of America rally and Jared Golden has DSA ties,” Theriault wrote. “He should have spoken out against the fact that his colleagues and their affiliated socialist groups have been taking the pro-Hamas position since the Hamas attacks, but he’s been silent for days.”
“He can’t have it both ways. Maine doesn’t need someone like Golden who won’t confront the Democratic Socialists of America on these issues — it needs some simple, effective County common sense,” he added. “We don’t act like this in Maine.”
The Maine House Republicans issued the following statement Wednesday condemning Hamas’ attack on Israel:
House Republicans join the international community in condemning the brutal attack on the people of Israel by the terrorist group Hamas. Earlier this year, the Legislature recommitted itself to combating the global rise in antisemitism. We denounce the unjustifiable killing and injuring of Jewish and other civilians without prejudice. Please join us in praying for Israel.
Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree did not comment on the Portland rally, but issued a statement in response to the attack on Israel over the weekend.
“I am horrified by the attacks against the Israeli people and condemn them unequivocally,” Rep. Pingree wrote. “This unprovoked violence is unacceptable. Today the United States must stand beside the Israeli people on this difficult day and in the days to come.”
Sen. Angus King issued a similar statement on the attack, calling it “a deadly and dangerous escalation.”
Gov. Janet Mills told the Bangor Daily News when asked Wednesday about the rally that her “heart goes out to the people of Israel, Maine’s Jewish community and all impacted by the evil, unspeakable acts of terror carried out this weekend by Hamas”.
She did not comment directly on the rally.
Despite condemnations of the attack from Maine’s entire Congressional delegation and Gov. Mills, many of the state’s top Democratic politicians have remained silent on the conflict and have not yet responded to the left-wing groups’ Portland protest.
The Maine DSA is an active supporter of the Maine Democratic Party, yet as of Thursday Democratic State Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Allagash), the Maine Democratic Party, and House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland) have remained silent on Wednesday’s protest and the conflict.
Former Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling, who regularly attends Maine DSA meetings and was recently hired for a political podcast by News Center Maine, has not condemned Wednesday evening’s rally or commented on the ongoing conflict.
The DSA and PSL were not the only left-wing groups to rally support for Palestine — the Chicago chapter of Black Lives Matter came under fire earlier this week when they shared an image appearing to represent a Hamas paratrooper with a Palestine flag.
BLM Chicago later deleted the post, saying “Yesterday we sent out msgs that we aren’t proud of,” while reaffirming their support for Palestine.