About three dozen people bundled up and gathered in downtown Portland on Presidents Day to protest President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency along the southern border. The Portland protesters joined Mainers in cities across the state who stood against the president and his efforts to build a physical barrier along portions of America’s border with Mexico.

“We are here in the snow, we are here in the rain because there are folks right now walking in the blazing sun trying to get into our country, and we want to welcome them here,” Rep. Michael A. Sylvester, D-Portland, told the protesters, who rallied at noon at John Menario Plaza.

They carried signs, listened to speakers and engaged passers-by in conversations about immigration and the role of immigrants in Maine today and throughout history.

Naomi Mayer of Portland is a member of the group March Forth, which maintains an active network of contacts to plan protests and stage rallies on short notice. Mayer said she has no idea how many times she has protested in the past two years, because it’s too many to count. “I am not exaggerating when I say I could not possibly tell you how many times we have protested. That’s how often,” she said.

She was accompanied by her friend Marcia Howell, who carried a sign that said, among other things, “Choose Love.”

In Augusta on Monday, more than 30 area residents protested front of the Edmund S. Muskie Federal Building on Sewall Street. Meanwhile, more than 100 protesters gathered on the Brunswick Mall and 40 assembled in front of a Lewiston courthouse.

More than 270 similar events were held on Monday across the country. In Maine, other rallies were scheduled in Bangor and Bar Harbor.

“I’m outraged by this man,” said Betty Wilkins of Readfield, who attended the Lewiston rally. She said she was thrilled to find a protest against what she called “a power grab” by the president.

Trump said Friday he would use executive orders to move about $8 billion from federal military construction and counterdrug efforts in order to fund the wall along the southern border, The Associated Press reported. The move drew bipartisan criticism and is already facing legal challenges. On Monday, a coalition of 16 states, including Maine, filed a federal lawsuit to block the president’s plan to build a border wall without permission from Congress

At the Augusta rally, Army combat veteran Ken Lambert of Wiscasset said drug- and immigration-related threats don’t warrant sapping money from military construction funds.

“I don’t feel that it’s necessarily a national emergency in relation to (some) greater threats that the country faces,” he said. “For military families that live in substandard housing, that money is going away, so they’re going to have to wait that much longer (because of) a political stunt.”

Other protesters in Augusta saw the border wall as a divisive symbol rooted in the misrepresentation of a “border crisis.”

Brian Alves of Washington said Trump’s rhetoric and decision-making revealed “the underbelly of the Republican Party,” which he said was hate-motivated.

Akiba Mermey of Manchester called the wall “a monument to Trump’s ego.”

Lead organizer Jessica Gorton of Readfield said she did not believe illegal immigration and related drug activity were as much of an emergency as Trump claims.

“If you want to talk about emergencies, let’s talk about climate change,” she said, adding that violence against minority groups is also an emergency facing the nation.

Sam Shepherd of the Kennebec Journal, Steve Collins of the Sun Journal, and The Times Record contributed to this report.

Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: pphbkeyes

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