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Protesters Rally in Portland Amid Donald Trump Appearance

Patty Wight
Donald Trump protesters in Portland Thursday.

As Donald Trump supporters lined up outside Merrill Auditorium to see the Republican presidential hopeful, protesters staged multiple rallies in downtown Portland.

From silent vigils to loud chants, their views were delivered in different ways, but their shared message is that they don’t believe Donald Trump is fit to be president.

The normally empty plaza in front of City Hall in Portland was teeming with supporters of Donald Trump on one side, waiting in line to see him at Merrill Auditorium next door, and protesters on the other side, chanting “Love Trumps Hate,” among other things.

Standing in front of a line of vendors selling pro-Trump T-shirts and buttons with slogans such as “Make America Great Again” and “Hillary for Prison,” Jerry Emerson of Bridgton says he’s as far as you could get from a Trump supporter. Trump, he says, has already hurt the country.

“He sets race relations back 50-75 years, even if he doesn’t win the presidency,” he says. “I think he’s done that much irreversible damage for the time being, for the nation in general.”

Christina Deveau of Auburn, who came to protest with her 20-year-old daughter Aurora, shares a similar view.

“I think it’s really important that we stand up for the rights of all people, and I just wanted to be a part of showing Maine that this is not right for our government,” she says.

Amid the protesters, members of Maine’s Democratic Party held a press conference about an hour before Trump’s arrival. Maine state Rep. Jared Golden, who is also a Marine veteran, criticized Trump for insulting veterans and for sitting on the sidelines while others fought U.S. wars.

Credit Patty Wight / MPBN
Phil Bartlett, chair of Maine's Democratic Party.

“I’m here today to urge my fellow Americans to stand up against this thin-skinned bully, who doesn’t have the temperament, he doesn’t have the knowledge, and he doesn’t have the respect from soldiers or veterans to serve as commander in chief,” he says.

Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling also spoke, saying that Trump does not represent the values of the state’s largest city.

“We do not have values in this city that will create an economic divide even wider between the richest and the poorest, we do not have values in this city that espouse bigotry, that push hate,” he says.

A couple blocks up the street at Monument Square, another group opposed to Trump took a different tack. Organizer David Cluchey, an emeritus professor at the University of Maine School of Law, says he thought it would be most effective to hold a silent protest.

“We weren’t looking for a shouting confrontation. We didn’t believe that would generate as much interest as simply a silent vigil. Just say no — no to Trump. That’s why our signs say no,” he says.

Cluchey says Trump is unfit and unqualified to be president.

“For a whole variety of levels, ranging from his denigration of minorities and women, disabled people, his lack of knowledge and understanding of global politics,” he says.

Back at city hall, Mike Best of Portland says if he can sway just one or two people to not vote for Trump, the hours of protest are worth it.