By Liz Trudel, Staff Writer
Sex-offender-rights activists took to the sidewalk outside Wishcamper last Monday to criticize USM President Glenn Cummings for his decision to remove three paintings by a registered sex offender.
Bruce Habowski, 51, of Waterville, Maine, had his paintings removed from an art exhibition called “Industrial Maine: Our Other Landscape” in Lewiston-Auburn last April, on the grounds of a complaint made to the university about him being convicted of unlawful sexual contact in 1999.
“The paintings were removed when a relative of a victim in the sex crime called the university to complain,” the show’s curator, Janice L. Moore, said in an interview with the Portland Press Herald.
Back in May President Cummings denied to be interviewed by the Portland Press Herald in regards to his decision. The communications department issued a statement instead.
“USM received a complaint from a member of the public. The complaint was not about the content of the art, but about the artist. After careful review, USM decided to remove his works from the exhibit,” they said in their statement.
Derek Logue from the Anti-Registry Movement (ARM) viewed Cumming’s actions as censorship and displayed a sign outside Wishcamper that said, “Shame on you President Glenn Cummings.” He also presented a wolf-headed-scarecrow holding a replica of a ripped Declaration of Independence which expressed Logue’s perspective that Cumming’s stripped Habowski of his First Amendment rights when he removed his artwork. Logue also had a display-board of paintings created by registered sex offenders, including artwork done by himself.
“I am not against punishment for people who commit sex crimes,” said Logue. “However, I believe punishment should be coupled with prevention and rehabilitation programs. I have lived under these laws for over a decade, and I have experienced the social ostracism, the denial of housing and employment services, and harassment that is common to those on the registry.
In a pamphlet that he handed out to students, Logue explained that he was convicted of having sex with a 15-year-old when he was 22. He stated, “It was stupid, my life was already a mess, and she seemed nice, and I needed a friend, and then it happened.” In the pamphlet Logue also expressed that he feels he and his family have been unjustly punished for his past actions that he has served his time for.
Logue stated that his children feel punished because he is not allowed to go to public parks or to hand out candy on Halloween.
“Children all over this nation are being punished for the past crimes of their parents,” he said. “We are creating a generation of emotionally injured, marginalized, angry children.”
As a representative of ARM, Logue urged USM students to protest Cumming’s decision to remove the paintings, stating that the president’s actions support the cycle of unjust oppression that convicted sex offenders face after serving their time.
Logue also urged students to contact local and state government representatives.
“Reform is desperately needed, families are in distress and children are suffering,” Logue said. “It is time to stop the ongoing war and punishment aimed at former sex offenders and their families.”