Colored chalk on asphalt lying.

The Women Whose Sidewalk Message Caused Susan Collins’ 911-Calling Meltdown Came Back With More Chalk

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Over the weekend, Susan Collins felt the need to call 911 over a message written in chalk on the sidewalk outside her home, urging her to support reproductive rights and vote in favor of the Women’s Health Protection Act (which she did not). The woman behind the chalk message told BuzzFeed News that she never expected anyone but Collins to see the message but the senator’s extremely delicate sensibilities had a spectacular Streisand effect, making headlines nationwide.

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The woman, who asked BuzzFeed to simply refer to her as Jane, lives in Bangor, Maine with Collins. She says that Collins has not held a town hall meeting for constituents in over 20 years, and that when anyone tries to get in touch with her via phone or email, “all we ever get back is whatever form letter response she’s sending out that week.”

Jane says she wanted to try a “more creative approach.” So she called a friend and “Then, like any good millennial, I went on my Target app and I ordered a 24-box of bold chalk.”

It’s hard to think of any more innocuous way to send a message than via chalk art, so the fact that Collins thought it was necessary to call the police (who obviously determined it was not threatening and that no crime had been committed) and also waste city resources and taxpayers’ money to have someone wash it away “left Jane feeling frustrated and unheard,” BuzzFeed’s Julia Reinstein writes. “Fortunately, that box of chalk was a 24 pack.”

Jane and her friend went back this week and wrote on the sidewalk: “You might not recognize our right to free speech, but I hope you recognize my right to have an abortion.”

State Rep. Amy Roeder stopped by and captured that and other messages:

Jane says that several of Collins’ neighbors came out to talk to them and were really nice and supportive. We’ve been seeing this sort of energy a lot lately. The protest at Brett Kavanaugh’s house was organized at least in part by one of his neighbors. Samuel Alito’s neighbors gave wine and pie to journalists covering the protests at his house. These are not some outside forces at play. This is not “antifa.” This is these people’s own neighbors sick of seeing their lack of accountability as they strip away people’s basic rights.

However, Collins’ husband, lobbyist Thomas Daffron also came out to speak to them and he was far less than supportive. Jane says he called them “idiots,” told them the chalk messages weren’t doing “any good” for their cause, and “repeatedly asked Jane, a teacher, who her employer is, but she did not answer.”

Reinstein writes:

“He just kept reiterating [that they’ve] been threatened [and get] these letters ‘threatening us bodily harm,’ to which my reply was, ‘So then you totally understand how I feel,'” Jane said, recalling the conversation. “The idea that you have a right to your own body — your health, your wellbeing, the right to live and go about your life — is all that we want, too.”

Daffron left to walk their dog, Jane said, and when he returned his demeanor was suddenly conciliatory. He said they should call Collins’ office to set up a meeting, and when they said they had tried that already, he told them to call again and “tell them who we were and that we had spoken with him and he would try to make it happen.”

All Jane wanted from the beginning of this was to feel heard by her elected representatives. It should not have taken all of this—national headlines, a 911 call, getting called an idiot by Collins’ husband—to make that happen. Good on Jane, though, for getting through in the end.

(image: mr_bangle/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.