Overwhelmed by the potential crowd size, the organizer of a Portland rally to oppose President Trump’s immigration policies has postponed the event to ensure its safety.

Originally scheduled for Friday afternoon in front of Portland City Hall, the rally was called to protest actions already ordered by, or expected from, the Trump administration, including a decision to suspend refugee resettlement. When a Facebook page about the event began to circulate Thursday, hundreds of people responded to say they would attend.

Organizer Hamdi Ahmed updated the page late Thursday to announce that the rally would be rescheduled. By 2 p.m. Friday, nearly 900 people had said they planned to go. Another 2,000 people had expressed interest in the rally, whenever it’s held.

“Due to the overwhelming support we have received and the obvious need to create spaces that center our most marginalized – we have chosen to postpone this event in the hopes that we can be intentional about creating spaces that are safe and honor those most affected,” wrote Ahmed, a student at the University of Southern Maine. “We hope you all use this time to reflect on the ways in which we all can use our access to resources to create the bridges necessary on our journey to collective freedom.”

In another post Friday morning, Ahmed said the decision to postpone was not in response to any threats of violence.

“The size of the anticipated crowd makes the event unsafe the way it was planned,” she explained in her post. “We need to find a location that can accommodate everyone, while keeping the organizer and speakers safe.”

On Wednesday, Trump signed two executive orders to ramp up immigration enforcement, including building a border wall with Mexico and withholding federal funds from cities that do not comply with federal immigration laws.

On Friday, he signed an executive order imposing a 120-day suspension of the entire U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and a 90-day ban on all entry to the United States from countries with terrorism concerns, The Associated Press reported.

The State Department said the three-month ban in the directive applied to Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen – all Muslim majority nations.

The order also halts entry to the U.S. by Syrian refugees until the president determines that changes to the refugee assistance program ensure that admitting them won’t compromise national security, according to the AP.

During his campaign, Trump also vowed to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. and to deport millions of other people living in the country illegally.

Former refugees living in Maine and legal advocates for immigrants expressed alarm at the orders, which could prolong their separation from their relatives trying to come to the United States.

The Facebook invitation for the rally cited the freedom of religion guaranteed in the Constitution.

“The United States is a nation of immigrants, and if we believe that Muslim Americans should be allowed to reunite with their families, let us stand together and fight this Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, and anti-refugee rhetoric and actions,” the event description said.

The Facebook page now lists the rally as May 3, but Ahmed said that date was arbitrary and it will likely happen sooner. She did not respond Friday evening to a request for further comment.

Ted Musgrave, event coordinator for the city of Portland, said Ahmed contacted his office Thursday to get a permit for the rally. She called again Friday morning to say she had postponed the event because of greater-than-expected interest, and she needed more time to work on the details.

To host an event on the City Hall plaza, any organizer must fill out a four-page application with questions about expected attendence, tents, parking and other details. Some events like road races pay fees to use city property, but a demonstration does not because it is considered a First Amendment right.

About 300 people can fit on the steps and plaza at City Hall, Musgrave said. Police typically close part of Congress Street when the crowd is expected to be larger.

Other demonstrations this month have followed the same protocol without incident.

When 600 people who want to save the Affordable Care Act rallied with a group of Maine Democrats two weeks ago, police blocked off part of Congress Street to accommodate the crowd.

And last weekend, Lt. Robert Martin said police sent extra officers onto the route for the Women’s March in Portland because the crowd of 10,000 was 10 times the number expected. Overall, more than a dozen officers worked the event.

“We shut down the roads and kept a free flow of traffic,” Martin said.

Musgrave said he expects more information from Ahmed next week.

“We want to try to hold safe events here in our city,” Musgrave said.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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Twitter: megan_e_doyle

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