AUGUSTA — In the final days before Saturday’s Women’s March on Maine, organizers are scrambling to get everything done.

That’s because in the last week or so, interest in the event has spiked.

“We had to rework the whole event and make it bigger,” Meaghan Carlson said.

Carlson is one of six women who have been shaping the event in Augusta since it was announced late last year. In a separate event Saturday, more than 1,000 are expected to participate in the Women’s Walk in Portland.

“We’re fielding messages and emails and keeping on top of the event page on Facebook and responding to comments and questions,” she said.

The Augusta rally, announced in the wake of the election of Donald Trump and developed in concert with the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., that takes place on the day after Trump’s inauguration, has attracted steady interest, Carlson said; but in the last week or so, the number of people who indicated interest in attending escalated.


In the weeks before the November election and since then, many people had expressed concerns over provocative statements Trump made during his campaign about immigrants, minorities and women and the revelation of an audio recording of comments he made about his behavior toward women.

Organizers say the rally is not intended to be anti-Trump; rather, they said, it’s the start of a positive change-and-action-oriented movement.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Carlson said, more than 3,000 people had indicated via Eventbrite, an online event-planning site, they would attend. The organizers also have created a Facebook page for the event, which indicates that more than 2,700 people have said they will attend.

With their reservations, a number of people have made donations to support the event. Carlson said that money is being used to hire professionals to set up a stage and sound system and to rent portable toilets.

“We’re getting a lot of attention,” Carlson said. “We’re just going to keep going.”

The event is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. Saturday on the west side of the State House, between the State House and the Burton M. Cross State Office Building. In addition to a slate of speakers, organizations will be there to share information.


For Karen Wainberg, of Bath, the event is a chance for her to participate.

“I am an activist, and I have been an activist,” Wainberg said. “I wish I could to go to Washington, but I am not physically able.”

Instead, Wainberg, who said she’s in her 70s, plans to travel to Augusta with a friend who is in her 90s.

“These problems didn’t start with Trump. They started a long time ago,” she said. “I am excited to join women and allies to show the strong outcry against what Trump is proposing and show that the things he values are not the values we have.”

Eliza Townsend, executive director of the Maine Women’s Lobby, said she’s not surprised to hear about the interest of older women. Townsend will serve as emcee Saturday, convening the event and introducing the panel of speakers.

“I speak to a lot of women,” Townsend said, “and one of the themes that repeats from women over 65 is they can’t believe they still have to protest these things. They also say, ‘I have been back there, and we’re not going back to life pre-Roe.V. Wade,” she said, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.


After a few speeches, the Women’s Walk in Portland is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. at the top of Congress Street on the Eastern Promenade, continue down Congress Street and end at Congress Square Park. The walk is expected to show support for women’s rights, civil rights and human rights.

Kathryn Yates, who started putting together the Portland event in November, said she hopes to draw people from immigrant groups, students, men, women and children.

So, far, she said, about 1,000 people have indicated their interest in the 1.5-mile walk.

“I’m just overwhelmed,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve done anything like this. Brave or foolish? I don’t know.”

Chief Russell Gauvin, of the Capitol Police, said the event won’t be the largest at the state Capitol, but he expects it to be bigger than most.

“Most of the well-organized ones are in the 500 range,” he said.


Gauvin said he doesn’t expect the Women’s March to attract as many people as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association drew last August, when about 1,500 people attended a prayer rally led by Franklin Graham in Capitol Park.

Among the top concerns people have is where they can park.

Gauvin said because the event is begin held Saturday, all the state government lots will be available and the parking garage will be open.

Carlson said organizers are encouraging people to carpool when possible, and for drivers to drop people off before parking.

“Maine Family Planning is planning on hosting a shuttle bus from the parking lot at the Augusta Civic Center,” Carlson said. “That’s a huge thing.”

Because it’s an outside event, there are no restrictions on signs, Gauvin said.


Carlson said she’s heard from people who expect to attend from across the state and from Canada.

“We want it to be a statewide solidarity event,” she said, “and we want to send a message to our own governor that these are important issues to people in the state, and we should come together over our common values.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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