March 24, 2018
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Women’s march in Bangor draws novice, veteran protesters

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff,
and Lori Valigra,

More than 1,000 seasoned political activists and first-time protesters marched Saturday through downtown Bangor to commemorate the first anniversary of the Women’s March on Jan. 21, 2017, and to protest the policies of President Donald Trump.

“I’ve forgotten all the things I’ve rebelled against,” Evelyn Foster, 84, of Ellsworth said. “This is not ordinary time. We must protect our values.”

Foster protested the Vietnam War and demonstrated for cleaning up the nation’s waterways.

Pilar Burmeister, 59, had never been part of a political protest before Saturday. She marched with her husband, Daryl, 51; son, Aaron, 26; and daughters Rory, 16, and Naomi, 13. The family drove to Bangor from Ellsworth. Naomi’s best friend Madeline Henry, 13, joined them.

“I really feel like this is way overdue,” Pilar Burmeister said as the march was about to begin across the street from the Bangor Public Library. “This is a movement that’s working now.”

She said that her family last year was not able to join the hundreds of Mainers who traveled to Washington, D.C., or the thousands who gathered in Portland and Augusta.

Because the Burgmeister family is Jewish, speaking up is especially important in light of the number of people who remained silent during the Holocaust, Pilar Burgmeister said.

“When you’re quiet, that means you agree, and we’re not going to be quiet anymore,” Pilar Burgmeister said. “I’m feeling empowered by this movement, and I want my daughters to feel empowered, too.”

Harnessing that feeling of empowerment into activism, large and small, was the theme a diverse group of speakers addressed inside the Unitarian Universalist Church on Park Street, where the march ended.

Olivia Baldacci, president of the Women’s Interest Group at Bangor High School, told the more than 500 people gathered at the church how her organization was able to get feminine hygiene products provided free in the girls bathrooms.

“Many people think they have to do something huge to make a difference but I think real change happens when you look around at your community, listen to your friends, your family or people in your workplace and to identify a problem,” she said. “Once you have identified the problem, just talk about it. But talking can’t last forever. You must do something about it.”

Other Bangor speakers included Maulian Dana, ambassador for the Penobscot Indian Nation; Stacy Leafson, founder of the Maine Common Good Coalition; Samantha Paradis, recently elected mayor of Belfast; state Rep. Barbara Cardone of Bangor; Ambureen Rana, vice president of Maine TransNet; and Kathryn Piper, who represented the Islamic Center of Maine in Orono.

The Bangor rally and another Saturday in Augusta, which drew more than 2,000 people, were sponsored by a coalition of groups. The Gouldsboro’s march was organized by Acadia Action, which is part of the national group Rise Stronger.

Women’s March-Maine was scheduled Sunday to host a party in Portland instead of a march.

The Portland event, to be held from 3-6 p.m. at Space Gallery, was planned to commemorate the anniversary of last year’s march as well as launch the “Power to the Polls” nationwide move to encourage voting, said Erica McNally, co-lead of the nonpartisan Women’s March-Maine group.

This year, instead of Washington, the event is centered in Las Vegas.

“The Las Vegas meeting will live feed us at Space Gallery for 15 minutes,” McNally said. She didn’t know the exact time of the live feed.

She expected 250 people to attend the event as the Space Gallery has a limited capacity. Tickets are $8.

“This event is primarily a performance and a party, not a rally. It’s a much-needed celebration of the historic nature of the Women’s March, a moment to recommit and re-energize, and a recognition of local artists active in the resistance,” Genevieve Morgan, 2017 state chair of Women’s March-Maine, said in a prepared statement. “Last year’s march was an historic event for women and for our country, but now it is time to evolve our protest into votes.”

January marches over women’s reproductive rights have been held, mostly in Washington, D.C., for more than four decades. The 45th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in the U.S., is Monday.

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