Portlanders Zsuleikah Arellnos, 11, and Maya Rothschild, 11, on right, hold signs while standing along Congress Street during the March for Our Lives protest against gun violence in Portland on Saturday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Protesters in Portland joined others in hundreds of locations around the country Saturday in gathering to speak out against gun violence and call for stronger gun laws.

“Enough is enough. We demand change,” the group chanted during a march from Lincoln Park to the steps of City Hall. They wore blue, the color of the national March for Our Lives movement, and orange, the color of gun violence prevention, and held signs that read, “No more guns” and “Protect kids, not guns.”

“This is something that’s so important and something that’s not talked about enough,” said Sydney Wolf, one of the organizers of March for Our Lives – Portland, Maine. “No one deserves to be in fear of gun violence anywhere. That’s really the motivator for us.”

The march, which Wolf estimated drew upwards of 1,000 people, was organized in conjunction with hundreds of others around the country through March for Our Lives, a youth-led movement that started after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and injured 17 others.

Saturday’s protests in more than 300 locations around the U.S. came after a gunman killed 10 people at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store and a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, last month claimed the lives of 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School.



As protesters gathered on a sunny afternoon in the park in Portland, many said they were tired of the epidemic of mass shootings and called on Congress to do more to prevent such violence.

“I’m really sick and tired of this happening year after year and month after month and Congress not taking any action,” said Joe Anderson, a pediatrician at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. “It’s disheartening and honestly, it’s disgusting.”

Anderson, 38, said he thinks a federal “red flag” law is needed to allow law enforcement to confiscate guns from people who are deemed a threat to themselves or others and that military-style assault weapons should be banned.

“We can’t expect to put the responsibility of keeping our kids safe in the hands of our teachers,” Anderson said. “That’s not their job. Their job is to teach our children. My job as a pediatrician is to keep kids healthy. Congress’ job is to keep all of us safe.”

John Carter, a fifth-grade teacher in the Falmouth school district, came to the march with his two children, Eve, a fifth-grader, and Knox, a seventh-grader. He carried a poster listing dozens of school shootings that have taken place over the last two decades. “We ran out of ink printing this school shooting list,” the poster said.

“As a teacher, having to practice lockdown drills and school shooting drills, this is not something we should be doing in school,” said Carter, 52. “You can imagine what kind of anxiety that creates for students.”



After marching from the park, down Pearl, Middle and Exchange streets, protesters crowded the steps of City Hall and were given chalk to draw stick figures representing victims of gun violence on the sidewalk. A series of speakers, many of them students and educators, spoke to the crowd about the impacts of gun violence and the need for action.

Elizabeth Mitchell, an education major and rising junior at the University of New England, said that as a teacher in training she has thought extensively about how she would respond to a school shooting and it terrifies her.

Protesters gather at Portland City Hall during the March for Our Lives protest against gun violence on Saturday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

“At the rate the U.S. is moving, … it is almost a certainty in my mind that this will happen to me by the end of my career,” Mitchell said. “And the only thing that should be of concern to myself and my class is the learning and we should be able to do that learning in a safe place.”

Portland Public Schools Superintendent Xavier Botana called on Congress and state lawmakers to prioritize the safety of students and school systems by taking measures such as improving reporting on lost and stolen weapons and funding public health research on firearms-related issues. The superintendent also said elected officials need to support a ban on semi-automatic military-style weapons and uniform background checks.

“Until we do that we will continue to gather here every few years to grieve another mass shooting with the knowledge that but for the grace of God, it could have been our kids that didn’t get a chance to grow up,” Botana said.


Zanne Langlois, a teacher at Falmouth High School who also spoke to the crowd Saturday, said that while gun violence is impacting schools around the country, discussions around gun violence shouldn’t just focus on schools. “People are dying in grocery stores and in churches, and until our leaders are willing to do something about guns, none of these things will change,” Langlois said.

“I’m so tired as a teacher of schools being scapegoats and being told we need to do more advisory programs or come up with a better door system. … Why are we having kids practice being afraid because our leaders are too afraid to actually address the issue?”


Following the rally at City Hall, the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, March for Our Lives, Suit Up Maine and Moms Demand Action for Gun Safety – Maine held a news conference outside U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ office calling for stricter federal gun laws. The senator is part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers working on drafting gun safety legislation in the wake of the back-to-back massacres in Buffalo and Uvalde.

Geoff Bickford, executive director of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, which works to educate the public on and raise awareness around gun safety issues, called on Collins to not “walk away” from negotiations until some agreement is reached. He said the package should include at a minimum universal background checks, a federal safe storage law to help keep guns out of the hands of children, and access in all states to red flag laws.

“We cannot have another mass shooting, another slaughter of innocent, beautiful little children at their desks and not do something again,” Bickford said. “So don’t walk away from negotiations until we have an agreement on a package of gun safety legislation.”

Collins’ office said in a statement Saturday that she met this past week with parents from Newtown, Connecticut, where 26 people were killed at an elementary school in 2012,  and she has also been in touch with the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, which helped draft Maine’s “yellow flag” law.

The law allows law enforcement to temporarily take away a person’s firearms if a medical professional agrees a person could potentially harm themselves or others.

“To help prevent future horrific shootings, Senator Collins is one of 12 bipartisan senators – led by Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and John Cornyn,  R-Texas – who are drafting gun safety legislation that can become law,” the statement from Collins’ office said. “The group had another very good meeting this week and is continuing to make progress over the weekend. We hope to announce an agreement soon.”

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