Hoisting signs that read “Impeach the Bully,” “Keep Families Together” and “No Human Being Is Illegal,” a crowd of 2,000 protesters packed in front of Portland City Hall made it clear Saturday afternoon what they think of the government’s treatment of immigrants.

The crowd chanted enthusiastically, sang and applauded wildly while listening to a dozen speakers over two hours in 80-degree heat. The event was one of more than 600 “Families Belong Together” protests and marches held in all 50 states Saturday, a coordinated effort to bring attention to President Trump’s immigration policies, specifically the practice of separating immigrant children from their parents at the southern border. Protests were also held elsewhere in Maine, including Brunswick, Augusta, Farmington, Bangor and Bar Harbor.

In Portland, speakers implored the crowd to be active in politics and, specifically, to vote in the November midterm elections, as a way to try to force the government to treat immigrants and all minorities more fairly.

“Who’s ready to resist? Who’s ready to take action?” asked Marpheen Chann, 27, the son of Cambodian refugees and a board member of the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, speaking from a microphone at the top of the City Hall steps. “Who is ready to show solidarity with immigrant children, and step up for families?”

He said seeing news reports in recent months of children being separated from their parents made him “mad as hell.” He asked the crowd if they, too, were mad as hell, and the answer was a resounding yes.

The crowd was attentive and enthusiastic during the rally, and respectful of one another in the hot and sticky conditions. The crowd also filled two blocks of Congress Street, which was closed by police.

IGNORING HUMAN RIGHTS

Many of the signs, and some of the speakers, called for the abolishment of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known as ICE, which enforces immigration policies.

Many people who came said that the policy of separating families was just the latest action by Trump that proves he and his top officials often ignore human rights. Several talked of Trump’s attempts to ban Muslims from the United States as an example.

“I’m just sick to death at what’s happening to this country right now,” said Judi Hudson, 70, a retired nurse from Brunswick. “Taking children from their parents is another example of something we can’t tolerate.”

Hudson, who attended Saturday’s rally in Portland with her daughter and daughter-in-law, held a sign that said: “We were just following orders – Holocaust prison guards 1943 – ICE Officers 2018.”

The government’s separation practice came to light in early May when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the departments of Justice and Homeland Security would prosecute everyone who crosses the border illegally — the so-called “zero tolerance” policy. Because children cannot be held in jails with their parents, the policy led to some 2,300 children being separated from their parents at the country’s southern border between May 5 and June 9. On June 20, in the face of public and political pressure, Trump signed an executive order to end the separation of families, by detaining parents and children together. The order did not address the plight of the children who had already been held separately. On Tuesday, a federal judge in California ordered immigration authorities to reunite separated families on the border within 30 days.

Julie Krasne, 59, of Freeport, was one of the dozens of people who wrapped themselves in shiny foil-like blankets, similar to those seen being given to children separated from their parents.

“This is just the latest chapter of inhumanity by this administration,” said Krasne, a veterinarian. “All of us need to take a stand for kindness.”

Portland’s rally was hosted by more than a dozen local social action groups, including Mainers for Accountable Leadership, the Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union of of Maine, The Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, and the Maine NAACP.

Among the speakers were representatives of those groups, as well as immigrants living in Maine.

OTHER PROTESTS

In Augusta, an estimated 1,000 people attended a protest Saturday on State Street in front of the State House.

“We’re unhappy with how our government is dealing with immigration and how they’re treating people just because they’re from somewhere else, they look different and sound different,” said Hoai-nam Hoang, who came to America with her family in 1980 from Vietnam. “It’s not very fair.”

In Farmington, about 200 people gathered on Main Street for a protest. Organizers said one aim was to bring awareness to elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R–2nd District, about opposition to Trump’s immigration policies.

In Brunswick on Saturday, U.S. Sen. Angus King addressed the 250 or so people gathered for a protest on the Brunswick Town Mall.

“We’re not a country of one people, one race who have been here for a thousand years, except for the African-Americans who were brought here against their will or Native Americans,” King said. “All of us are immigrants or the children of immigrants.”

Staff Writers Jessica Lowell of the Kennebec Journal, Rachel Ohm of the Morning Sentinel and Chris Quattrucci of The Times Record contributed to this report, as did The Associated Press.

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: RayRouthier