There are no permits, there’s no transportation planned and few hotel rooms available, but come what may, Maine women are organizing to join the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21, the day after Donald J. Trump takes the presidential oath.

One of the local organizers, Genevieve Morgan of Portland, said the rally at the Lincoln Memorial is expected to draw women – and men – from across America who share core values about human rights and environmental protection. More than 1,000 people from Maine have indicated they want to join the rally, according to a local Facebook page.

“This is not a protest about the outcome of the election or a protest against Trump. It is a rally to focus the incoming administration about issues we all care about, which are the rights of all citizens and the protection of our planet,” Morgan said.

The national effort to organize a women’s rally in Washington began last week in the hours after it became clear that Trump had won the election. The idea spread on social media, and within 24 hours had become a virtual reality – and then reality set in. It takes many months to organize a rally, and this one is logistically challenging because of Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, said Fontaine Pearson, who lives in Memphis, Tennessee, and is co-chair of the national rally.

As of Wednesday, national organizers had not received the necessary permits from the National Park Service, though Pearson said she was confident that permitting would be a formality. It might take as long as a month to get the necessary permits, she said. The group needs a permit to rally, but not to march. The National Park Service manages the Lincoln Memorial and National Mall.

More challenging for people from Maine and other places far from Washington is the lack of lodging and transportation, Pearson said. Because of the inauguration, hotel rooms close to the city are hard to find, and expensive.


At this time, Maine organizers are suggesting that people plan their own transportation, although there are efforts to hire a fleet of buses. Concurrent to planning for Washington, there’s talk of a simultaneous rally in Augusta for people who do not want to travel to Washington but want to participate, Morgan said.

“We’re making this up as we go along, and there is a lot to be clarified,” she said. “This movement is bottom up, grassroots. There’s no uber-structure helping us. We are a bunch of women from all around the globe who just decided to get up and do something, and that is me included – and all the people I have been in contact with from Maine all feel the same.”

Many people have asked if they can donate money, but the local group isn’t set up to take donations yet, Morgan said. She asked people to check in with the group’s Facebook page for updates. Eventually, there will be a website with more details, she said.

Right now, state organizers are working with individuals in communities across Maine to organize locally and encourage participation across all groups of diversity.

Among those from Maine who plan to attend is Falmouth attorney Kristen Farnham. “The march is about affirming our shared values and giving voice to those values,” she said. “For me is it also about affirming what I believe is our social contract that being a citizen in the United States comes with rights and responsibilities, and part of that is a shared responsibility for everyone.”

Kathy Klein of Medway wants to send a message that progressive women and men are not going away. “We want the president to succeed, but we are watching and will raise our voices in unity if his policies disenfranchise or cause harm to people based on gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, economic class, disability or age,” she said. “Attending the march also gives a strong message that the election did not give a mandate to Donald Trump or the Republican agenda. We must work together to compromise and solve the problems our country faces.”


Klein found Trump’s campaign message shocking, and she was stunned when he was elected. “But obviously, his message resonated with many people who are frustrated with the system and who feel left behind in the economy. We need to participate in proposing positive solutions to these problems, while still standing up for true American values of diversity and respect for all people,” she said.

Morgan got involved because she felt it was important for her to stand up for her beliefs. This spring, she traveled with her 16-year-old son from the beaches of France to the streets of Berlin, following the path of the Allies in World War II. She and her son took the trip, in part, because he is interested in joining the military, and Morgan wanted to show him some of the celebrated battlegrounds in military history.

“We saw a lot of churches and a lot of graves, and talked a lot about what it means to fight for your country and to fight for freedom,” she said. “If my son joins the military, I want to know he is fighting for the freedom of all people.”

LK Weiss, 36, of Portland, supports the rally because “the very safety and security of marginalized individuals is at risk every single day,” she said. An artist and designer, she is debating going to Washington, but plans to get involved by volunteering her design expertise and supporting the rally in other ways. “I believe support can come in many forms and will keep working to support equality for women and for all marginalized communities through financial means, utilizing my expertise in art and design, volunteering (and) showing up when people need support.”

The idea for the rally began when a woman from Hawaii named Teresa Shook jumped online on election night and joined a chat room lamenting the election returns. “I wanted to connect and have a conversation with people, because I thought it would help me,” she said. “I was very upset, distraught. I was numb and fearful.”

In the chat room, she suggested a rally in Washington to coincide with the inauguration. People liked the idea, so she created an event on Facebook, choosing the time, date and place without investigating the logistics or if it was even possible. She posted the event before she went to bed, and shared with three dozen friends. The next morning, 10,000 people said they were coming and another 10,000 said they were considering it.

“I was flabbergasted, and still am,” Shook said. “How could that happen? It was just me, a solo woman, who had no idea what I was doing. I am not an activist. I am a grandma and a mom, and I wanted to do something. I didn’t plan anything. I didn’t have a mission statement. I just wanted people to come.”

Overwhelmed with the response, Shook connected with Pearson and others, who took over the planning.

It’s hard to predict how many people will show up, but Pearson said early hopes for a million people or more seem realistic. “Women are excited, angry and disappointed, and especially black women feel incredibly betrayed. They voted for Hillary Clinton. They showed up. But 48 percent of white women let them down and voted in a white nationalist ticket. Women see this march as something they can focus on and take action on, so they do not feel so hopeless and so isolated.”

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: