PORTLAND — As marches go, it wasn’t a particularly big one and, given the timing — a cold January afternoon, not long before sunset — it didn’t attract anything in the way of a crowd.

But that wasn’t really the point, said Rachel Talbot Ross, state director of the NAACP and one of the organizers of the short march from the Preble Street Resource Center to City Hall on the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“We march to keep the tradition of marching alive,” Ross said Saturday after about 150 people had concluded the walk.

Ross noted that much of the civil rights movement was built around marching, whether it was Selma to Montgomery, Ala., or the March on Washington in 1963.

“If there are five or more of us, we’re going to keep on marching,” Ross said.

Once at City Hall, remarks were kept brief in recognition of the cold.

One speaker was Ethan Strimling, a former state senator, who urged his fellow marchers to keep up the tradition of nonviolent protest espoused by King.

He connected those earlier protests with the present-day Occupy movement and said he regretted that the Portland City Council didn’t support that movement by voting to allow that group to continue its encampment in Lincoln Park.

Instead, the council in November turned down a permit request from the group and has since opposed Occupy Maine’s effort in court to win the right to stay in the park.

Earlier Saturday, a community discussion at the Preble Street Resource Center about inequity, racism and classism kicked off events honoring King.

About 150 people participated in the discussion, many of them students from more than a dozen middle and high schools, colleges and youth training programs across the state. They formed into small groups to talk about poverty in Maine and King’s ideas about race, class and power.

“The essence of these events is to ask, are we more or less democratic since Martin Luther King,” Ross said.

Students said they heard about the events from friends and decided to attend to learn more about King.

“There is a group that appreciates Martin Luther King in Portland,” said Huda Hassan, a student at Portland High School.

Qutaiba Hassoon, a student at Deering High School, said he had never heard about Martin Luther King until he moved to Portland from Iraq three years ago.

“He made peace between blacks and whites,” said Hassoon.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.