Patty Morris of Cape Elizabeth exhorts the crowd protesting the treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers at the southern border. Morris said the families are fleeing poverty and violence in their home countries and asked, “Wouldn’t we do the same thing?”

Zack Rouda has held plenty of one-person protests, so when he created a Facebook event last week about a rally Monday in Portland, his expectations were low.

Leah Deragon of Portland holds signs that read LOVE and EMPATHY with her children Greta, 5, and Kjeld, 9.

By noon, though, more than 200 people had joined him at the corner of Temple and Middle streets, often called Lobsterman’s Park, to protest U.S. immigration policies that have sparked growing outrage across the country.

“I’m surprised, but also not really,” Rouda said. “I think people are so pissed off, they have so much rage that they don’t know what to do.”

Monday’s protest didn’t feature any speakers or organized demonstration. There was some chanting and a host of signs, some reading “Silence = complicity,” “Keep Families Together” and “Stop Taking Migrants.” But mostly, those who attended said they came because they simply could not continue to be silent.

Patty Morris held a sign that showed two pictures, one of a brown-skinned mother and child. The other showed a white mother and child. In the middle was an equal sign.

“All of the things that (President) Trump talks about these people bringing, that’s what they are fleeing,” she said, referring to poverty and violence that are widespread in parts of Mexico and other Central American countries. “Wouldn’t we do the same thing?”


Morris, who lives in Cape Elizabeth, said her ancestors came from Ireland and left their country because of widespread famine. Today’s situation is not different, she said, except for one thing. “They aren’t white,” Morris said.

Although Trump signed an executive order ending the family separation policy – even after saying for days that only Congress could fix the problem – he has maintained an incendiary tone toward immigration. On Sunday, he even suggested getting rid of due process.

“We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country,” Trump posted on Twitter. “When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came. Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order.”

Ana Courtney attended Monday’s protest with her 20-month-old twins. She said the stories and images of families being torn apart have been heartbreaking.

Many used signs to state their opposition to the Trump administration’s immigration policies during the Portland protest at Lobsterman’s Park. A protest Saturday in Washington will include satellite events across the nation, including in Portland.

“As a parent, you can’t help but have a visceral reaction,” she said. “I just think what we’re seeing is against the spirit of what the U.S. is about. Inclusiveness.”

The location of Monday’s protest was across the street from the Portland office of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican who has been critical of some of the Trump administration’s immigration tactics, including the family separation policy that was halted last week amid increasing complaints. Collins has nevertheless been the target of protests from some who don’t believe she has done enough to push back against the president’s policies.


“I’d like to see her make a commitment to do whatever she can to reunite families and also to oppose indefinite incarceration,” Rouda said.

Mike Luce of Portland makes his opinion known with a 3-D display.

Trump has called on Congress to pass an immigration bill, but Republicans and Democrats have not yet found anything near consensus on the issue. That was true during the Obama administration as well.

Morris agreed that immigration has long been a difficult topic, but said the Trump administration’s attempt to “criminalize asylum seeking” amounts to a human rights violation.

“I don’t think we realize how privileged and lucky we are,” she said.

Rouda agreed. He said many Mainers are “blinded by privilege.”

He said he was talking about the immigration issue recently with his dad, a Trump voter. He said his father’s counter-argument about immigrants coming into the country illegally was “just come in the legal way.”


“But that’s just not an option for some of these people,” Rouda said. “So I told him, ‘If you were in that situation, and you were fleeing violence and possible death, and someone said they could get you into Arizona safely for $1,000, wouldn’t you do it?’ ”

Monday’s protest was the latest in an escalating series of events around the country. A national protest in Washington, D.C., has been set for Saturday, with satellite events held across the country, including in Portland.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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