Several dozen people held a nearly 16-hour “walking vigil” outside of Portland’s federal courthouse Tuesday to object to the Trump administration’s plans to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement.

At the end of the vigil, organizer Robert Levin was briefly detained by federal police following an act of civil disobedience at the courthouse entrance.

Tuesday marked the two-year anniversary of the adoption of the so-called Paris climate agreement in which nations agree to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and commit resources to global adaptation. The agreement, which has been signed by more than 190 nations, aims to keep global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius or less this century.

The Obama administration was a key player in the Paris negotiations, but President Trump has blasted the non-binding agreement as unfair to the U.S. and harmful for American business.

To signal their support for the climate accord and disapproval of Trump’s withdrawal plans, Quakers with the Portland Friends Meeting and others held a “walking vigil” outside of the courthouse on Federal Street beginning at midnight. Participants walked around the block 196 times, once for each nation that has signed onto the accord while holding the country’s flag.

During the final lap, however, the roughly two dozen people walked in the reverse direction with their heads bowed while the front person held a small American flag. The event culminated in a brief, planned act of civil disobedience by Levin, a Friends member and local attorney.

As others sang “America the Beautiful,” Levin and others raised an American flag to half-staff on a flagpole that the group brought. As sleet and freezing rain covered the group in a sheeting of ice, Levin took several steps to the courthouse entrance with the flagpole.

“I wish it hadn’t come to this for me. It’s very painful,” Levin said just prior to the act. “The only way that I feel genuine in expressing my dissent and my disagreement and grief is to raise our flag to half-staff. And my intent is to walk onto the federal property here and to trespass in a way that I believe our nation is trespassing on international decency and goodwill and good faith in solving a global problem.”

He was greeted by officers from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service, who were told of Levin’s plans beforehand and even cleared the spot of snow and ice. After talking with the officers, Levin handed the flagpole to another member and was escorted into the courthouse, but was released soon thereafter without charge.

Nathan Broaddus, a Friends member who helped organize Tuesday’s event, said the vigil was consistent with the Quaker tradition of a “leading” in which someone is called upon by God to take action. Broaddus said the vigil was not a protest, however.

“It is an act of mourning and an act of grief, but also an act of hope,” Broaddus said after the event. He expressed optimism that so many countries had signed onto the Paris accord and that the U.S. would eventually rejoin the agreement.

Representatives of nearly 200 nations, as well as businesses and nonprofit organizations, were meeting this week in Paris for a summit on the agreement. The Trump administration is not participating. But businesses leaders, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and state leaders have pledged to continue working toward the goals of the Paris accord despite the Trump administration’s plan to withdraw the nation from the agreement.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH

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