By: Riley Mayes, Web Editor
On Saturday, March 5, students and faculty at the University of Southern Maine gathered together outside of Glickman Library to show their support for Ukraine. Under a bright, clear sky demonstrators stood on the corner of Forest Avenue and Bedford Street bearing bright blue and yellow flags and homemade cardboard signs calling for peace while cars drove the busy street honking their horns to show support. Students and faculty smiled and cheered as cars drove by.
The demonstration comes in response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine beginning on February 24. Russian forces are currently bombing city centers and invading by air, land, and sea while refugees attempt to vacate the country in mass numbers.
Alex Benoit, a psychology major, stood proudly at the front of the group with a hand-painted sign that read, “I stand with Ukraine.”
“It was important to me as part of USM to show my support,” said Benoit. “Being an American, there’s not a lot we can do. But we can come out here in front of cars and show that everyone is upset about it, and spread awareness that way.” Benoit said that the demonstrators were mostly students, friends of students and a few professors.
The event was organized by Jason White, a sociology major.
In a letter sent out across campus that invited students to show their support for Ukraine, White wrote, “I’m standing in solidarity with those being killed, imprisoned, pushed to take up arms, banned from leaving their country and denied safety. I’m supporting those who must flee their homes and land and those taking refuge in subway stations because they have no means to escape the violence.”
White also composed a letter to the Sociology department calling for solidarity for Ukraine, which can be read on the Sociology Department Facebook Page.
As of March 29, fighting in Ukraine has resulted in over nine hundred civilian deaths and pushed millions of Ukrainians to flee to neighboring countries. The majority of refugees have arrived in Poland, a(North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) country where U.S. troops are preparing to offer assistance to refugees.
The United Nations, G7, EU, and other countries continue to condemn Russian actions and support Ukrainian forces. In an emergency United Nations session, 141 of 193 member states voted to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and demanded that Russia immediately cease its use of force in Ukraine.
The U.S. has issued escalating sanctions against Russia and has banned U.S. imports of Russian oil and natural gas. On March 16, President Biden announced that the U.S. would send $800 million in additional military assistance to Ukraine shortly after the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, appealed directly to the U.S. Congress in an emotional virtual address requesting additional financial support, weaponry and a no-fly zone to help his country fend off the Russian invasion. On March 24, Biden remarked that the US will also welcome 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, and provide nearly $300 million of humanitarian aid.
“This new package on its own is going to provide unprecedented assistance to Ukraine,” Biden said, adding that the Russian invasion was producing “appalling devastation and horror” in that country.
“The American people are answering President Zelensky’s call for more help, more weapons for Ukraine,” he said.
Fighting and shelling continues to terrorize Ukraine, and Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Andriivna Vereshchuk said Monday that humanitarian corridors would not be open due to reports of “provocations.” About 160,000 civilians remain stuck in Mariupol, the Ukrainian city blockaded and shelled by Russia for weeks.
For those looking to get involved to support the effort in Ukraine, resources are available at unitedhelpukraine.org