AUBURN — Protesters in Lewiston-Auburn joined many across Maine and the nation Saturday to show their frustration with the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
Some signs locally read, “Stop Separating Families,” “Resist Hate and Racism” or “Stop This Nightmare.”
Longley Bridge was covered end-to-end with hundreds of protesters at the Families Belong Together rally, part of a nationwide effort Saturday to reunite immigrant children with their parents.
Pat Fogg, organizer of Resist Central Maine, who also organized the local rally Saturday, said people are angry about what is happening in America.
“This should not be happening,” she said. “Children are being harmed, and who would support that? It’s cruel, despicable and I can’t say enough about how awful this is.”
Fatuma Hussein, founder of the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine, said: “America today is divisive. America today is pitting vulnerable people against other vulnerable people.”
She said it is a country divided and filled with a lot of fear not based on facts.
“Elected officials, who are supposed to uphold the values of America, are the people who say these divisive words,” Hussein said.
Zak Ringelstein, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, showed his support for the protests by walking with people in Lewiston-Auburn and addressing the crowd.
He called the jailing of children “the most un-American thing that could possibly happen.”
Ringelstein himself was jailed June 22 when he visited an immigrant containment center at the Texas-Mexico border. He refused to leave, trying to bring supplies to the children being held there.
“I’m honestly still processing what I saw,” he said. “I witnessed a man driving a border patrol vehicle call a group of children and families prisoners. This is not the America that we believe in.”
Ringelstein also attended rallies Saturday in Portland and Augusta.
Portland’s rally Saturday morning grew so big that police had to shut down part of Congress Street as about 2,000 demonstrators spilled from the steps of City Hall onto the road. Speakers included members of the city’s growing immigrant community.
Robert O’Brien of Peaks Island held aloft an upside-down U.S. flag, the symbol of distress, to show his disapproval for Republican President Donald Trump’s policies, including separations of families. He called the forced family separations “cruel and unusual punishment.”
“We are on the cusp of a full-on, fascist, authoritarian regime. Trump is clearly taking unilateral action against certain groups of people that he wants to keep out of the country,” O’Brien said.
Across the region, large rallies were held in Brunswick, Bangor and Bar Harbor in Maine; Concord, Conway and Portsmouth in New Hampshire; and Burlington, Brattleboro and Rutland in Vermont.
In Brunswick, independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine joined a demonstration in his hometown, and denounced forced family separations.
He tweeted that he will keep “fighting this misguided practice, and urge Maine people who feel the same to keep speaking out.”
He said the mood at the event matched the frustrated calls received by his office, saying people are “shocked, angry and ready to create change.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Phaedra Cleary, 7, of Mechanic Falls holds a sign that reads “Is This America” during the Families Belong Together rally on the Longley Memorial Bridge in Auburn on Saturday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)
People stretched across the Longley Memorial Bridge between Lewiston and Auburn during the Families Belong Together rally on Saturday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)