Denise Gilmore has advocated for a variety of causes, but she never imagined rallying on behalf of mail delivery.
But there she was, at a noisy demonstration Saturday, shouting out support for mail service and postal workers along with Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott and about 100 others outside the U.S. Postal Service processing and distribution center in Baltimore’s Jonestown neighborhood.
The rally was among a number in Maryland and around the country to show support for the Postal Service amid recent cost-cutting moves that have led to widespread complaints about mail service. The moves, including the removal of mail sorting equipment and mailboxes, have caused a political firestorm as President Donald Trump seeks a second term in a pandemic-influenced election in which mailed ballots are expected to play a critical role.
In Anne Arundel County, about 60 protesters gathered outside the Crofton Post Office called for the removal of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and for the protection of mail-in voting.
Gambrills resident Tom Hudson said postal service cuts, which could jeopardize mail-in voting, are a form of voter suppression.
”We are essentially here because Trump needs to go,” Hudson said. “He’s the worst thing to happen to this country in my lifetime.”
In Harford County, Postal Service supporters held signs over their heads as traffic rolled by on Route 40 in Belcamp. Rallies were also organized at the Towson and Lutherville-Timonium post offices and a couple of others in Baltimore.
The demonstrators at the Baltimore processing center carried signs, listened to speeches by Scott and others, chanted “I love the Post Office,” and encouraged cars and trucks on East Fayette Street to honk their horns in support.
When the mask-wearing demonstrators spotted three postal workers nearby, they clapped and waved. The workers appeared on the second level of the building’s parking deck, beneath a red, white and blue banner reading, “Heroes work here.”
The workers waved and applauded right back.
“I don’t think anyone thought four years ago that there was anything wrong with the Post Office,” said Gilmore, co-chair of Baltimore Women United, which encourages engagement and aims to unite women behind various causes.
“Why are we here two months before an election needing to protest to make sure our mail gets delivered?” she said in an interview.
Scott, the Democratic nominee for mayor in an overwhelmingly Democratic city, called the Postal Service cutbacks “really an attack on American democracy.”
“Any American — any Baltimorean — should understand the sole reason the president and his crew are doing what they’re doing is because they believe that if less people vote, that’s the only way they can win,” he said.
Trump, seeking a second term in the November election, has often said mail-in voting leads to fraud. More states than ever are using balloting by mail because of concerns about health risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
In late July, the Postal Service warned 46 states, including Maryland, that their deadlines for requesting absentee ballots might not provide “sufficient time” for ballots to be mailed to voters and returned to the elections office with the required Election Day postmark.
Maryland voters won’t automatically receive a ballot in the mail, but may request one through a mailed application or online.
At the rally, Scott said it was a waste of state money to mail applications.
“We should just mail everybody a ballot,” he said.
Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, has said the election plan, which includes 360 in-person voting centers, provides voters flexibility.
DeJoy, the postmaster general and a major Trump donor, has said the recent moves — which included the removal of four delivery bar code sorters from Baltimore and two in Linthicum — were part of a long-term effort to economize. He said the Postal Service is committed to delivering ballots on time and was suspending some cost-cutting initiatives until after the election “to avoid even the appearance of any impact” on voting.
About 33 of the sorting machines remain at the Baltimore facility, according to local postal union officials. Scott said he hoped the other four would be returned.
Saturday’s rallies were organized by the progressive advocacy group MoveOn and others. Rallies were held from Portland, Maine, to Salt Lake City, Utah, to Los Angeles, with hundreds of such events overall, according to MoveOn.
Many at the Baltimore event also called for DeJoy to resign.
One demonstrator arrived wearing a sign attached to a helmet featuring a silhouette of Trump.