WASHINGTON, D.C. — Fifty-four women and one man boarded a bus Friday night in Augusta, arriving in the nation’s capital 12 hours later to join thousands of others for the Women’s March on Washington, a day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The central Mainers interviewed during the bus trip said they were committing themselves to the long journey because the issues at stake under the new administration were worth it. They said the expected turnout of thousands across the country gave them hope.

Madelyn Besse, 43, of Industry, traveled with her 11-year-old daughter, Amelia Tiermey, to the march. They’ve traveled to Washington before on family vacations, and Besse went in 2004 for a women’s march.

Besse said “it didn’t take me long” to sign up for the march when she saw it on social media. She felt “heartsick” after the election, she said, and thought the march would “keep me positive and hopeful.”

“I have an 11-year-old daughter, and I need to show up,” she said. “Being a mom … I needed to let people know we weren’t going back.”

In Washington, the 55 Mainers who left Augusta joined an estimated 4,000 Mainers and hundreds of thousands of women and men. The streets leading to Independence Avenue and Third Street, where a rally was held, were packed with people wearing pink homemade “pussy hats” designed to look like cat ears and carrying signs advocating women’s rights, minority rights and science, among other issues.

The space leading to the rally was packed and the national organizers tweeted that streets close to the area were closed around 11 a.m.

The purpose of the march Saturday, as laid out by its national committee on the event’s website, was for those who feel threatened by recent political rhetoric, such as immigrants, women, minorities and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, to stand up and defend human rights they think could be lost under the Trump administration.

In addition to the march in Washington, which started at Independence Avenue and Third Street, an estimated 386 “sister marches” were held in cities around the world, including Augusta and Portland, for those who couldn’t make it to the nation’s capital.

Saturday afternoon, as marchers made their way to the rally point and later throughout the city, they chanted, “This is what democracy looks like,” and cheered.

As she walked the streets of the nation’s capital, Tara Kiernstead, 30, of Hallowell, one of the Augusta bus captains, said she was marching for her 1-year-old niece.

“Because hopefully when she’s the age I am now, she won’t have anything to march for; this will all be just a historic moment I can talk to her about,” said Kiernstead, who works as a school counselor at Hall-Dale middle and high schools in Farmingdale. “And also my students, every single one of my students who asks me questions and I don’t really know how to answer, about our current administration and how they treat people, I march for them too.”

The one man on the Augusta bus, Michael Crespi, of New Sharon, said he traveled to show solidarity with women, also on behalf those who could not attend, including his partner, who is Mexican, and her Puerto Rican mother.

Crespi lamented “extraordinary racist attitudes” that have been “cultivated” by Trump.

“He may be our president, but he’s not my leader,” Crespi said. “And I cannot be led by such a leader.”

Colleen Geldermann, 19, is originally from New Albany, a city of about 36,000 in southern Indiana, and now attends Colby College in Waterville. She bought her bus ticket to Washington as soon as she saw there was a bus chartered to leave from Augusta.

“Even though he is our president, he needs to be criticized,” Geldermann said of Trump. “He lost by 3 million votes. He’s a minority president.”

In Geldermann’s hometown, many of her friends and relatives supported Trump in the election. She said girls from her high school would say they liked Trump because they wanted boys to like them, or didn’t want to be made fun of for being liberal.

Geldermann hopes to show people she knows that she’s serious about this issue, and that it’s OK for girls and women to think for themselves, she said.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, also attended the march and was sporting a bright orange blazer, the state’s chosen color for the march. Pingree, who boycotted Trump’s inauguration on Friday, welcomed Mainers to her Washington office for refreshments after the march Saturday.

“We came here instead of being at the Maine marches because we were pretty sure there would be a lot of Mainers coming,” she said.

Pingree said her phones have “rung off the hook” since the election of Trump, which raised concerns over the continuance of the Affordable Care Act, Planned Parenthood funding and LGBT protections, among other things, she said. Pingree said she was surprised by the size of the march and by how many Mainers showed up.

“I know a lot of people who aren’t politically active who came here today,” she said. People are “mad,” she said, and “this probably won’t be the last march.”

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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