Hundreds of people strode down Congress Street in Portland on Saturday – from Congress Square to City Hall – marking the second anniversary of the Women’s March on Washington.

Thousands more gathered in Washington, D.C., and at sister marches in cities across the country. But the numbers were considerably down from the estimated 3 million to 5 million who showed up nationally for the first marches the day after President Trump’s inauguration in 2017, one of the largest protests in U.S. history.

While two years ago more than 5,000 showed up on Congress Street to protest Trump, this year about 1,000 people braved subfreezing temperatures to send a message focused on inclusion and the strides women have made in the past two years in getting elected to political office.

“We’re back,” women’s activist and former Maine gubernatorial candidate Betsy Sweet told the crowd standing outside City Hall.

Sweet was one of several speakers at the march, which was organized by about a dozen volunteers of the Women’s March Maine coalition.

While the national Women’s March is embroiled in a controversy over accusations of anti-Semitism against leaders of the movement, including co-president Tamika Mallory, who has maintained ties to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, some members of the local coalition said they are trying to send a message of unity and welcome to all women.

Amy Gaidis of Portland called the controversy an attempt to divide a mass movement .

“Trust the work they have done,” Gaidis said of the national leadership.

Sweet addressed the issue head-on at the beginning of her remarks.

“Everyone is wanted and needed here,” she said.

The crowd featured a colorful mix of pink hats and ornate protest signs.

Cathy Walter of Gorham sported a matching set of homemade neon pink fleece mittens, scarf and hat. She handed out another 10 pairs of handmade mittens at the march.

Walter, who marched in Washington two years ago, said she is more optimistic now than she was then.

“I have a little more hope from the midterms,” she said, referring to the elections in November, when many female candidates were elected to Congress and Democrats won control of the House.

Gretchen Phoenix of Portland said Saturday’s message was not about stopping Trump but promoting women.

“This is for equality in the future. This is for all people – all have a seat at the table,” Phoenix said.

Heidi Kendrick of Portland carried a giant bouquet of papier-mache poppies and a sign that read, “Knock us down, we’ll get back up.”

She said the poppies symbolized women’s persistence.

“The idea is women are beautiful, but we are not going to get trampled down,” she said.

Gordon Carlisle of Eliot and his wife, Susan Poulin, carried professionally designed signs made by Carlisle, a commercial artist. The signs made their debut at the Women’s March in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 2017. Carlisle said the signs, which lampoon Trump, have held up well over the years.

“They are still au courant,” Carlisle said.

One sign quoted two lines from the poet T.S. Eliot: “Where does one go from a world of insanity/Somewhere on the other side of despair.” Another depicted a huge cracked egg and the words: “This wall isn’t all it is cracked up to be.”


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