PORTLAND, Maine — In conjunction with what could be one of the largest protests in American history, a pair of women’s rights marches in Maine this weekend are gaining momentum.
More than 2,500 women are expected to gather to stand up for women’s rights and civil liberties on Saturday outside the state’s Capitol in Augusta. And in Portland, at least 700 more women are on deck to walk from the Eastern Promenade to Congress Square Park, in the heart of Maine’s largest city.
Donations for the Augusta march have topped $5,000 so far and between 100 to 300 new participants are signing up online daily, according to the event’s coordinator, Bekah McIntyre.
Tied into the explosive grass-roots effort Women’s March on Washington, Maine’s marches sprung up after the victory of President-elect Donald Trump, who has mocked a Miss Universe winner for her weight, boasted that his fame allows him to grope women and vowed to defund Planned Parenthood.
Held the day after the inauguration, all three rallies aim to amplify the voices of people worried they could lose civil rights under the next president.
At least 3,000 Maine women are headed to Washington, D.C., and will be rallying simultaneously.
“The idea is to be in complete solidarity with other marches around the country,” said Kathryn Yates, 66, of Portland, who had the idea to create a local rally for those unable to travel to D.C. “The election was so wounding to the community and divisive. I thought about how I could give back.”
Yates, who is on the board of trustees at Maine College of Art, chose to organize Women’s Walk Portland to “demilitarize” the march concept and bring it down to the local level. “I want it to be a community event, and the community in Portland is diverse.”
Organizations such as the The American Civil Liberties Union, Family Crisis Services and Empower The Immigrant Woman will join the walk, which starts at 10:30 a.m. on the Eastern Prom with a musical performance by Portland songwriter Sorcha Cribben-Merrill and speeches. As the rally snakes through the city, organizers hope the public will join the procession.
“We are encouraging people in our community to talk to one another about why they are walking,” said Yates. “My hope is that by coming out and showing support for, not only women’s rights, but citizen’s rights, justice and freedom for all Mainers, we can continue this sense of community.”
At the Augusta rally, Sen. Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester, Judy Kahrl of Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights and Eliza Townsend from Maine Women’s Lobby, among other leaders from across the state, are expected to address the crowd.
“We want this event to inspire people, to be fun and encourage people to take the energy and frustration they are feeling and to push it forward for change,” said Ariel Linet, a public interest lawyer who recently moved to Maine and is one of six organizers of Women’s March on Maine.
Though far from Washington, organizers say the State House rally sends a message. Gov. Paul LePage, who endorsed Trump, has a history of making controversial statements that are widely perceived to be insensitive to people of color and women.
“Symbolically we are in his backyard, and we can get his attention,” said Linet, who has pulled together a lineup of performers such as the newly formed Portland Street Choir, Portland musician Jenny Van West and a native women’s drum circle.
Both women’s marches are open to all genders.
From these large gatherings of like-minded citizens, organizers hope fruitful actions will unfold in the next four years.
“The big question is after [Jan. 21], what will we do with all this passion and energy?” Yates said.
Women’s March on Maine is 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the State House, 111 Sewall St., Augusta. Women’s Walk Portland starts at 10:30 a.m. on The Eastern Prom at Congress Street, Portland.