Lead organizer Luke Sekera-Flanders and educator Jake Kulaw carry a water defense banner in Lewiston Aug 21, 2021 created for Community Water Justice by the Artists Rapid Response Team (ARRT!). Photo credit: Nickie Sekera
A breathtakingly hot bicentennial celebration parade saw 100+ vehicles belching CO2 into the atmosphere as it wound its way from Auburn to twin city Lewiston yesterday in Maine.
Bringing up the rear was Community Water Justice walking entry “Bicentennial B-roll: The Villagers vs. The Pillagers!” (There were good banners in need of carrying, so I decided to leave my pitchfork in the car.)
It was a parade dominated by the corporate entities who treat Maine as a resource extraction colony: among them Poland Springs, the odious Central Maine Power, and Casella waste “management” i.e. trucking in construction debris from away and incinerating it as Maine-sourced waste.
We were an unauthorized entry to the parade and police twice ordered us out of the street, which we ignored. (Yes, white people can get away with that.)
Many people clapped and cheered our message, and twice at different points on the parade route someone shouted, “They saved the best for last!” As police tried to shoo us away the audience shouted, “Let them march!”
Besides our banners we wore or carried Stolen Spring logos, Maine Natural Guard, and “God bless the corporations for giving us candidates.”
Getting press coverage was the usual struggle (one sentence in the Lewiston Sun Journal, crickets elsewhere) but Luke was well-prepared with a press release. An excerpt:
The parade…is sponsored by many of Maine’s worst environmental offenders, including Poland Spring (who is the headline sponsor), Casella, and Central Maine Power. Nestle recently sold Poland Spring to a pair of private equity firms now operating as BlueTriton Brands, playing Wall Street games with our water sources. These companies’ sponsorship of the bicentennial celebrations showcases the State of Maine’s relationship with these polluting corporations, and presents a great opportunity to show solidarity in our collective struggle for a healthier future. While many residents are aware of individual issues such as the CMP Corridor, industrial fish farms, Casella, Metallic Mining or Poland Spring bottled water, they are not aware of the larger context – that Maine’s environment is the target of exploitative international private interests.
Beyond being detrimental to Maine’s long-term economic, environmental and social stability,
these corporations’ presence in Maine is contradictory to any reasonable path to mitigating the effects of harmful changes in our climate.
Earlier this month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report, revealing that the key window for action to prevent the worst effects of climate change is within the next decade. Its findings confirm what Indigenous and environmental activists have been saying for decades – unless we dramatically reduce carbon emissions and pollution, we will face the consequences.
The purpose of this action is to engage the public with the reality and urgency of Maine’s position as an object of corporate hyperfocus, and elevate the struggles for Indigenous sovereignty, water security, and environmental health into the public eye.
Indigenous sovereignty might save us if we listen in time. How much indigenous wisdom was evident at this celebration of Maine’s statehood? None that I saw besides our messaging. I know that Penobscot elders were holding a water ceremony that day, and also that former chief Barry Dana regards the bicentennial as a celebration of the long colonial genocide on Native people of the region.
When I was a small child in Maine it seldom got hot enough for swimming, according to my California girl mother. Yesterday in Lewiston-Auburn it was a 89 degrees and very humid.
But why worry about all the carbon-belching parade vehicles and the lead sponsorship by Poland Spring, formerly owned by the multinational water extractor Nestle.
The banner Luke carried had been modified to reflect that private equity water investors doing business as Blue Triton now own Poland Springs water extraction sites in Maine. What could go wrong?