PORTLAND — Dozens of people gathered Tuesday for a May Day rally in Portland organized by Occupy and labor groups to draw attention to workers and students.

Despite cold rain, nearly 100 people assembled to show solidarity against what they call Wall Street greed and income inequality.

Speakers addressed the crowd from atop a soap box at Congress Square, and demonstrators chanted about protecting workers’ rights and celebrating worker contributions. Students from the University of Southern Maine spoke about the burden of student debt with rising tuition rates.

“We face a worldwide economy that’s not working for the workers of the world,” said John Newton, a member of the Maine AFL-CIO’s executive board, his words echoed by the crowd.

May Day protests were held around the world Tuesday, with demonstrators demanding everything from wage increases to an end to cuts in education and health care. Members of the Occupy Wall Street movements organized rallies of their own in several cities in the U.S.

In Portland, the rally featured a soapbox made out of a stack of pallets, an energized crowd and people handing out cups of soup and ponchos to keep participants warm and dry.

One by one, Occupy organizers, labor leaders, students, and others spoke about the importance of protecting worker and student rights.

“As students, we are a class of people that are growingly being exploited by the banks and by our government,” said Katherine Hulit, a student at USM.

Sarah Franklin, a retired teacher from Portland, said she thinks “crony capitalism” and “stealing from the next generation” are helping fund a lifestyle for the elite.

“I think the 99 percent is a really important movement that we need to keep going because our Congress is stuck and will not do what needs to be done, so the energy needs to come from the people,” she said.

Benjamin Hitchcock, 19, said he’s been involved with Occupy movements in New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. To attend the Portland rally, he hitchhiked from his home in Bar Harbor.

“It’s about keeping the message alive,” he said. “It’s about showing solidarity between workers, students and the rest of the 99 percent.”

Tuesday’s demonstrations were the most visible organizing effort by Occupy groups since Occupy encampments were dismantled in a number of cities. In Portland, the encampment at Lincoln Park came down in February.

The group still holds its general assembly gatherings on Wednesdays and Saturdays at Congress Square.


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