Despite divisions in the movement and a looming snowstorm, around 1,000 people gathered in Portland Saturday for the third annual women’s march in solidarity with other marches across the nation.
“It’s become an annual way for us to gather and focus on fighting back,” event volunteer Amy Gaidis said. “It’s a way to show up and be together and gather our energy and feel emboldened to continue the fight against oppression that we’ve all been experiencing.”
Demonstrators marched from Congress Square Park to Portland City Hall, where a half-dozen speakers addressed the crowd on a wide variety of issues.
Attorney and activist Betsy Sweet was the first to speak.
“We have changed things as a result of the last two years of action,” Sweet said. “We have birthed the Time’s Up movement and amplified the Me Too movement … and we have elected more women to the Maine state Legislature than ever before, and we have elected our first female governor, Janet Mills, in Maine history, and we have elected more women and women of color to U.S. Congress than ever before.”
Two years ago, the first Women’s March was held the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Demonstrators marched in Washington, D.C., and around the country, and it became one of the largest single-day protests in U.S. history. In the years since then, the movement has grown from an event to an organization with abroad agenda.
“I think there definitely is a difference in momentum this year, and the big question with the Women’s March has always been ‘how do we turn this moment into a movement?’ and that’s very difficult to do,” Gaidis said. “Certainly here in Maine it remains important. A lot of people that I see here, I saw in the fight against Kavanaugh’s nomination, coming out and saying ‘Me too,’ and there are these ways that it’s still connected with struggles that have happened throughout the year.”
The national leaders of the Women’s March did come under fire earlier this year following allegations of anti-Semitism and of excluding women of color and the LGBTQ community. The Maine’s women’s march issued a statement before Saturday’s demonstration, and organizers of the Maine event apologized to those who felt excluded.
“We’re taking it very seriously, and have made an effort to meet one on one with everyone who has brought concerns to us,” said Sally Struever, one of the organizers of the Maine event. “We anticipate that this is just the beginning of the conversation. There’s a lot more to learn from each other, and we’re hoping to facilitate some trainings and workshops and more spaces to talk about this moving forward.”
Several speakers also emphasized a need for inclusivity and unity during the rally. Rene Goddess Johnson said the most disenfranchised Mainers are missing from the local movement.
“Maine is in need of true commitment,” Goddess Johnson said. “It’s in need of a revolution. So I ask you all to be activists, and I ask you all to be leaders, and commit more than sympathy and prayers. Commit your time, your body, your skills, your energy, your love, your compassion.”
This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.