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Portland rally draws attention to war in Ethiopia's Tigray region

A group of people march in the middle of a road, holding yellow and red flags as well as handmade protest signs.
Ari Snider
Maine Public
Protesters march up Congress Street in Portland on Wednesday, waving Tigrayan and American flags. The event drew people from across New England.

The event drew dozens of Tigrayans from across Maine and New England to rally on the steps of Portland City Hall and march through downtown.

Organizers said the goal was to raise awareness of the war that has gripped the Tigray region for nearly a year, leading to a severe humanitarian crisis.

The war is being fought between Tigrayan forces and the Ethiopian national government and its allies, including the neighboring country of Eritrea.

Making matters worse for the Tigrayan diaspora, said protesters, is that a de-facto government blockade of the region has cutoff communication with family members for months.

"I have aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents as well that are still there, and we have no contact and no phone, no internet – any connection to communicate with them," said Misrak Adane, who is from Tigray and now lives in Portland.

She said she has only been able to hear from a few of her extended family members after they fled the country.

Four people holding a sign walk up an urban street. They are holding red and yellow flags from the Tigray region of Ethiopia, as well as red, white, and blue American flags.
Ari Snider
Marchers walk through downtown Portland on Wednesday, carrying American and Tigrayan flags. Protesters said the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments are responsible for the humanitarian crisis in the Tigray region.

Mahteme Demewe, who is also from Tigray and now lives in Boston, helped organize the event, which he said was meant to send several messages.

"To demand the government of Ethiopia to open the route in order to get supplies," Demewez said. "And also at the same time, the international organizations to supply food and medicine to the people of Tigray who are dying currently."

The United Nations has warned of a spiraling humanitarian crisis in the region, where millions of people are in urgent need of food aid and hundreds of thousands are already facing famine-like conditions.