BAR HARBOR — About 500 people crowded the Village Green on Saturday to show support for immigrant families separated at the southern border of the United States. Attendees carried signs and were offered assistance in contacting their government representatives.
The rally was organized by Indivisible MDI, the local branch of a nation-wide organization that resists President Donald Trump’s agenda. Similar protests were held in more than 700 cities and towns in the United States.
“We shouldn’t separate families and the families that have been should be reunited,” organizer Jill Weber said. “What’s happening now at the border is intentionally instilling panic in those families.”
The Trump administration has been under fire for a policy announced in May that would criminally prosecute adults, with or without children, entering the country illegally.
As a result, some children have been taken to a government-commissioned holding location while the adult is detained. Proponents of the policy believe it discourages illegal immigration.
Speakers included Catholic priest the Rev. Matthew Temple, therapist Milja Brecher-DeMuro, lawyer Alyne Cistone and teacher Eliza Oldach – who taught children of migrant blueberry workers in Maine.
Co-organizer Gail Leiser said this event garnered more attention than she imagined during the planning process.
“It was much more than I anticipated; more people showed up and the speakers were fabulous,” she said.
There were no counter protesters at the rally, Leiser said, but Town Manager Cornell Knight forwarded her an email he received the next day from a woman who said she has visited Bar Harbor for the last four years.
In the email, which Leiser provided to the Islander, the woman expressed her disappointment that the rally was allowed to be held in the center of town.
“We drive 11 hours and spend $500.00 a night to ensure I do not have to deal with this nonsense on vacation,” she wrote. “Bar Harbor is a summer tourist location that caters to people from all around the world, of all nationalities and backgrounds. So why would this be acceptable to do in the center of town where people are trying to enjoy quiet?”
Knight told Leiser that he responded to the woman by saying the rally was protected under the First Amendment.
Co-organizer Bo Greene spoke during the event, which ended in a call to action for attendees to speak to their representatives in government about this issue.
“Imagine that you are an aspiring American who has been detained in Texas and you are in a cage,” she said. “Your discomfort level would be much greater, as would your anxiety over being separated from your family members.”
Leiser said immigrants get a reputation for committing crimes once they come to the United States, but are statistically less likely to commit crimes.
Indivisible MDI does not have any formal plans to continue work on immigration policy, Weber said, but members regularly communicate with their representatives in Congress.
Weber estimated 200 people attended Indivisible’s Mother March in May, making this event one of the largest her group has organized.