PORTLAND, Maine — Roughly 200 people gathered in Portland's Monument Square Thursday evening as part of a vigil remembering the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
"There was a need for community members to connect about what happened on January 6," Allyson Gardner, director of Maine Students Vote, said.
The vigil was organized and sponsored by more than a dozen local community groups. Participants held signs, chanted, and heard from speakers. Messages were also projected onto nearby buildings.
While many that took part in the vigil reflected and denounced the violence at the Capitol last, attendees were also there to call for the passage of voting rights legislation in Congress.
Many called on Congress, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, in particular, to support multiple voting rights bills including The Freedom to Vote Act, The Protecting Our Democracy Act, and The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
"I really do [think] this, it's important that it's as easy in Mississippi as it is here in Maine for an American citizen to cast their constitutional right to vote and make their voice heard," Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said at the vigil.
"We want these legislations passed. We want to make sure that everyone has the right to vote, and our voting rights are protected for years to come," Gardner said.
A similar rally was held Thursday afternoon in Bangor. Additional candlelight vigils were held around the nation on the anniversary of the Capitol riot.
"It's good to know that there are other people in my community willing to stand up and stand out," Cathy Walter of Gorham said at the vigil.
A group of less than a dozen people held a counter-protest to Thursday's gathering, intermingling with the crowd in Monument Square. There were, at times, tense moments as attendees and counter-protesters exchanged words and offered competing chants.
"Everyone has the right to freedom of speech, and when I have rallies they're more than welcome to come and counter-protest if they want," said one man who gave his name only as Richard.
Overall, both groups remained peaceful, and crowds dispersed after roughly two hours.