For an hour, they stood in the cold Saturday along Forest Avenue in Portland, holding signs and flags of yellow and blue, the colors of Ukraine.

“I stand with you, Ukraine,” read a sign displayed by Alex Benoit of Oxford.

Motorists drove by, waving, honking, beeping in support for the Eastern European country, which came under attack last month by Russia.

The small demonstration was organized by University of Southern Maine student Jason White, who said he did so “because everyone feels terrible.” He wanted to show solidarity for Ukraine, to make a statement opposing Russia’s war against it.

Those attending the protest ranged from a young child to gray-haired seniors.

Una Mayer, 8, stood with her mother, Sharon McGauley, who held a peace sign colored with yellow and blue. “The whole situation is so heartbreaking,” McGauley said. Showing up is “the right thing to do.”


After seeing images of people fleeing their homes, being maimed and killed, “it was really emotional for me to know people were being attacked by Russia,” said Benoit, a student at USM.

She had hoped to hear more discussion in her classes about the situation in Ukraine. “We need to talk about this,” she said, but taking part of the Saturday’s demonstration was about all she can do, she added.

“It frustrates me that as Americans we have the largest budget for the military,” she said, but noted that if the U.S. intervened in the war, Russian President Vladimir Putin had suggested he might unleash nuclear weapons.

Deirdre McClure, holding a Ukrainian flag, agreed that if the U.S. entered the war alongside Ukraine, “the stakes would go up exponentially. It’s so complicated.”

McClure approves of President Biden working with other nations and imposing sanctions against Russia. She took part of Saturday’s demonstration because “I’m behind a country that’s been invaded by a superpower. It doesn’t sit right.”

Adam Tuchinsky, dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at USM, spoke of a worldwide trend toward fascism that “seems to be worse, to say nothing of the nuclear threat. It feels a little like 1938 and 1939.”


Elise Berry of Portland, a Maine Medical Center physician assistant, also held up signs against the Russian aggression. “It’s super important to stand up,” she said.

What’s happening now in Ukraine isn’t right, she added. “We’ve got to say something.”

Brianna Demaso, the USM student body vice president, held a sign with no words, just the colors of Ukraine.

“It’s very important for students, staff and the USM community at large to be here today, to be supporting Ukraine,” Demaso said.

The people of Ukraine deserve their basic human rights, she added. “They just were stripped from them. For what? It’s so inhumane.”

Laura St. Pierre, another USM student, noted there are some area residents who have family in Ukraine. Just the act of holding signs of Ukrainian colors, “driving down the street and seeing that support, it means a lot,” St. Pierre said. “It shows we’re standing in solidarity with them.”

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