By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,302)
“We Are Maine, We Are Maine,” chanted many hundreds at a rally at Monument Square in Portland early this evening. They were protesting possible cuts in General Assistance, Food Supplement, SSI and TANF for aslyum seekers and other immigrants.
Hundreds, some estimates said over 500 people, marched from Lincoln Park at 5:30 down to Monument Square. That’s where the crowd listened to almost twenty speakers inspire them not to give up the fight against proposed state budget cuts in Augusta.
Marpheen Chann told of his family’s long journey to the United States. The first in his family to graduate from college and law school, Chann’s grandparents and parents lived under the vicious rule of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. They came to the United States. He was born in California and his family moved to Maine when he was five years old. His family benefited from General Assistance. “I grew up in the time when Maine believed in good government. Where would I be if it were not for Maine?” he asked the cheering crowd.
Local business owner Mary Allen Lindeman said: “Immigrants are not looking for a hand-out, but a hand-up. Portland’s future workforce comes from the immigrant community. Our Portland workforce is getting older and older. You are our future.”
Mayor MIchael Brennan said that he had been meeting with politicians in Augusta earlier in the day – trying to urge them to do ‘the right thing.’ “I want my granddaughter to grow up and see what democracy looks like and what Portland looks like,” he told a cheering and sign waiving crowd. Councilors Jon Hinck and Justin Costa attended the rally, although Councior Ed Suslovic, who is expected to run for Mayor in the fall, was no where to be seen.
The rally was organized by the Maine Immigrants Rights Coalition (MIRC) according to Clement Yumbe. Planning for the rally began about l l/2 months ago. Participants came from all over Maine; including Portland, Lewiston Biddeford, Westbrook and South Portland Yumbe said.