March 25, 2011

Second rally protests labor mural's removal

By Ann S. Kim
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — Hundreds of people packed the hallways of the Labor Department building this afternoon to express outrage at Gov. Paul LePage's plans to remove a mural depicting labor history.

click image to enlarge

Roy Patterson, of Gray, holds a sign as hundreds of protesters listen to speeches this morning in the hallway outside the Department of Labor lobby in Augusta. This was the second of two events to protest Gov. Paul LePage's order to remove the 36-foot, 11-panel mural by Judy Taylor, of Tremont, that was installed there in 2008.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

click image to enlarge

Robert Shetterly speaks to the crowd this morning in the hallway outside the Department of Labor lobby in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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The crowd was far too large to fit into the building's reception area where the mural is displayed.

Robert Shetterly, president of the Maine Union of Visual Artists, said the painting is not partisan but tells the story of Maine's people.

"it's a history that gives us the courage to struggle for our own rights today," he said.

Charlie Scontras, a labor historian who consulted with the artist on the murals, noted that it was organized labor that demanded the creation of a Labor Department in the first place. The department was seen as necessary to collect data that would help craft legislation to create safer workplaces, he said.

"Nothing is built without labor, including this Department of Labor," he said.

Some people in the crowd broke into chants several times during the hour-long rally. The chants included "Recall Paul," "Nazis banned art," and "Who are we? The people. Who's mural? Ours."

Shetterly told the crowd its continued commitment will be needed. He said it is important for them to return if attempts are made to remove the mural.

The event was organized by the artists' group and the Maine AFL-CIO.

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