A small group of anti-mask protesters gathered late Saturday morning in Portland’s Lincoln Park, one of several other events around the country that included a march in Augusta.

Aligned with the American Patriot Council, a nationwide group advocating against restrictions such as masks and social distancing that have proved to reduce the spread of coronavirus, the group of a little over a dozen held signs protesting Gov. Janet Mills’ mandate to wear masks in public spaces, according to News Center Maine.

Protesters called Mills’ actions unconstitutional, though her executive orders mandating masks and limiting public gatherings have held up to court challenges.

Despite a nationwide rise in case numbers and deaths, Maine has one of the lowest case rates in the country.

The Portland event was part of a nationwide “Freedom March” organized by the American Patriot Council, known for its gun-toting rally outside the Michigan state capitol targeting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s precautions against COVID-19.

Freedom Marches were planned all over the country on Saturday, including in Augusta, where protesters gathered near the State House.

The council has put Whitmer and Mills on what it calls a “criminal watch list” over its belief that they violated the Constitution in fighting COVID-19, although courts around the U.S. have upheld governors’ power to enact emergency restrictions to protect public health during the pandemic.

Whitmer this fall was reportedly the target of an unrelated kidnapping plot by extremists riled by her pandemic-era mandates. The alleged plot was uncovered and stopped by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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