Sunday, April 24, 2011


Judge John Woodcock’s decision to deny a temporary restraining order in the Maine Labor History Mural case came as no surprise. Judge Woodcock noted during oral arguments that federal courts are reluctant to interfere in state affairs and that he was inclined “to allow the status quo to exist while a more ordered and thorough process is completed.”

Though Gov. LePage declared to a handful of his supporters that “We won,” his claim of victory is as premature as Pres. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech in 2003, during which he declared victory in a war that rages on eight years later.

According to arts professional and activist Edgar Beem, “We won the moment the US DoL put in writing that LePage was out of order with the terms of the federal funding when he seized the mural. We won the moment Taylor stated publicly that LePage had not consulted her – as required by her business contract – when he seized the mural. The injunctions before Judge Woodcock are simply about the disposition of the mural and what happens next.”

Contrary to what the governor seems to believe, Judge Woodcock did not “throw the case out.” He simply and predictably denied a temporary restraining order seeking to restore the mural. The legal and moral fight for justice in the mural censorship case will continue.

Still to be answered are the U.S. Department of Labor’s demand for the mural to be re-hung (or the Reed Act funds that paid for the mural returned), the issue of LePage’s breaching the artist contract and whether the LePage administration violated the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990.

As well, if Woodcock orders the LePage administration to allow members of the public to check on the disposition of the mural and either LePage refuses or the mural is damaged, there will be serious legal consequences.

As Judge Woodcock himself points out in his decision, “Maine’s political leaders are ultimately responsible to the electorate.” Who ultimately wins the battle over the Maine Labor History Mural may not be decided until the next gubernatorial election. According to activist Joan Braun, “We have already been proven right in the court of public opinion, but we do not intend to wait four years for justice.”

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