- Associated Press - Saturday, January 21, 2017

Thousands of people turned out for women’s marches and rallies in Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire on Saturday as part of a series of protests a day after the inauguration of Republican President Donald Trump.

In Montpelier, Vermont, demonstrators overwhelmed the small city, causing traffic backups on the interstate that prompted the state police to close exits in and around the city for a time and the police chief to say that city roads could not support any more people or vehicles Saturday afternoon. Police, who estimated the crowd was between 15,000 and 20,000 people, reopened the interstate exits Saturday night.

Brooke Welch and her 10-year-old daughter arrived early to attend the march and rally after driving two hours from Brattleboro, Vermont.

“We are here because we are wanting to stand up for women’s rights and for equality in our nation and for the right to have our rights,” Welch said. “Because it’s very important to me to be part of a women’s movement with my daughter, and we are standing in solidarity.”

Democratic former Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin told the people in the crowd they are not alone in their fear, despair or grief for what might have been but they are together in their strength and determination.

“Over the next four years, we will be heard,” she said. “We will raise our voices not only today, not only here in Montpelier, Vermont, but in every city and town and state in the United States and Washington.”

Independent Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders also spoke at the rally.

“Trump is going to learn they are not going to divide us up!” Sanders shouted, according to the Burlington Free Press. “We are going to create … a nation based in love and compassion, not on hate and bigotry!”

Trump has said he disavows and condemns hate groups that celebrated his election victory.

Earlier Saturday, at least 10,000 people turned out for a women’s march in Portland, Maine, while others attended rallies in Augusta and Brunswick.

More than 3,000 people carrying signs with messages such as “Dissent is patriotic” and “We are better than this” attended a rally on the Statehouse lawn in Concord, New Hampshire, where Democratic U.S. Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen, Democratic U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter and author Jodi Picoult addressed them.

“We in New Hampshire are not in the habit of going in reverse,” Picoult said. “We have the backs of those who are less fortunate - who may be struggling for health care, for environmental rights, for racial equality, for a fair wage, for justice. We are in this together. And we know that change does not come from the top down, but from the bottom up.”

Sisters Emma and Nicole Shippee each drove about an hour to Concord to join the march in support of Planned Parenthood and other causes.

“I’m just kind of tired of the same old, same old men trying to control our access to health care,” Nicole Shippee said.

The sisters said attending the march was a way to turn anger and disappointment into action.

“Instead of moping around about Trump being elected, I might as well show up and do what I can,” Emma Shippee said.

The morning portion of the march was organized by Planned Parenthood, and a newly formed citizen group called NH Unites hosted programs in the afternoon.

Beyond the rally, various groups offered workshops about how to continue being politically active and how to engage with people who share different viewpoints.

Laurie Schlosser, a member of NH Unites, said her goal was to start a dialogue between people who disagree. She said she exchanged phone numbers with anti-abortion rights activists who showed up in front of the Statehouse.

“We all have to work together to make sure people are safe,” she said, “and that’s not about a political stance.”

___

Rathke reported from Montpelier, Vermont. Associated Press writer Kathleen Ronayne contributed from Concord, New Hampshire.

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