PORTLAND — Several hundred people protesting the recent deaths of two black men by white police officers stopped traffic in the city’s busy downtown on Friday and another similar protest is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, said Rachel Talbot Ross, state director of the Maine NAACP.
“The march is intended for those who want to add their voices to those around the country calling for an end to the proliferation of violence and the need for a justice system that is accessible, fair and transparent for all,” Ross said in an email about Sunday’s “March to End Violence: Solidarity for Racial Justice” rally. “Time will be given to recognize the lives of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice in the manner in which their families have called upon the nation to respectfully remember.”
The recent Maine protests have been peaceful, unlike protests in Ferguson, Missouri, where the grand jury declined last month to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of an unarmed Michael Brown last summer, and others in New York after the city’s grand jury last week declined to bring charges against police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, a black 43-year-old father of six.
Tamir Rice, 12, was carrying a pellet gun in a Cleveland, Ohio, park on Nov. 22 and was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer.
Ferguson has seen protests that have led to fires, looting and arrests and protesters in New York have been taken into custody after the angry but mostly peaceful groups rallied against issues surrounding racism, classism and the militarization of U.S. police forces.
Friday’s protest in downtown Portland was very peaceful but did hold up traffic.
“People were getting upset with that more than anything,” Portland police Lt. Robert Doherty said Saturday.
“They’re not mad at us,” the Portland police lieutenant said.
The Portland rally and another one held at Bowdoin College mirrored others that took place across the country on Friday and called for an end to police violence, especially against black people.
Portland’s Racial Justice Congress and the University of Southern Maine’s coalition Student Voices of Difference and Unity hosted Friday’s protest march and Sunday’s event is sponsored by the same group, along with Maine NAACP, Southern Maine Workers Center, Code Pink, Veterans for Peace, ACLU of Maine and Peace Action Maine.
“This family-friendly gathering will begin at Congress Square before marching down Congress Street to Chestnut Street where marchers will then enter the Portland High School gymnasium for a few remarks and song,” Ross said. “Marchers are encouraged to bring signs, banners, drums and/or musical instruments along with any donations of water, coffee and hot chocolate to make available at the gym for all to share. Please join us. Black lives matter.”