Protesters in Brunswick taking part in the nationwide “Families Belong Together” movement were joined by Sen. Angus King on Saturday.

Organizers from the volunteer group Brunswick Area Indivisible estimated about 250 people attended the rally. The group works to promote inclusion and equality on a local and state level, but the “zero tolerance” policy on the country’s southern border was the focus of Saturday’s rally.

“I looked down at my shirt when I was in the audience,” said King. “Did you realize the first name of our country is United? That’s who we are, that’s who we have always been.”

“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 added. “All of us are immigrants or the children of immigrants.”

Sen. Angus King speaks to the crowd at the Brunswick “Keep Families Together” rally on Saturday June 30, 2018. Staff photo by Chris Quattrucci

King’s comments were aimed at discrediting some of the beliefs in support of the current immigration policy. He disagrees that the current actions at the border are the proper way to deter immigration. King advocated for a more humane way to treat those traveling to the southern border, and balanced his comments with his previous stance on immigration.

“Nobody is advocating, that I know, for open borders,” said King. “I voted for the immigration bill in 2013 that had a lot of border security but didn’t have cruelty as part of the policy.”

Protesters gathered at Saturday’s rally held signs in objection to the current policy, while offering solutions of their own. Brunswick resident Mary Becker Weiss stood with a small group along the side of Maine Street to share her message with passing motorists.

“I just want to encourage people to vote,” said Weiss. “That’s the end of the conversation, vote. That will rectify the matter.”

Others were inspired to get involved by the stories they’ve heard coming from the border. Carmen Brochu was struck by the families that remain separated. She held a sign at the rally reading “family separation is child abuse.” The impact of the stories she’s heard motivated her to attend the rally.

“I care about all children and families, and what we’re doing is really wrong,” said Brochu. “They don’t have to be our own kids and families. We’re all family.”

Rep. Ralph Tucker spoke on behalf of the local legislators gathered at the event, which included Sen. Brownie Carson, Rep. Jay McCreight, Rep. Mattie Doughtry, and Rep. Denise Tepler. Tucker said the crowd gathered on the mall gives the group hope. Tucker localized the issue in his comments.

“What is to be done,” said Tucker. “Here in Maine we, and this delegation, must continue to vote down the recent wave of anti-immigrant proposed state laws. Laws that would force verification status for a state agency. These anti-immigrant laws were only defeated by four to eight votes on every vote. The people standing here would make the difference.”

King ended his comments with a solution. He advocated for helping the countries that immigrants are trying to leave. While believing in strong borders, King said helping those in need is the only long-term solution to the issue.

“This is a very difficult issue because we are one of the richest countries in the world and we are in the proximity to some of the poorest and some of the most dangerous,” said King. “In my mind we need border security for sure, we need asylum policies, we need adjudication, but we also need to help those countries so that people don’t feel they have to escape.”