Students chant, march through downtown Lewiston

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LEWISTON — The protests have come to Lewiston.

Starting at about 5 p.m. Friday, a crowd of more than 100 people began a march through downtown Lewiston, starting at Bates College and ending on Birch Street.

What followed was a series of minor traffic snarls and a lot of curiosity. Lewiston police officers in cruisers escorted the group, which meandered to Birch Street along a winding path.

“Hands up!” they hollered in unison, with one woman using a loudspeaker to direct the others. “Don’t shoot!”

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That was a reference to Michael Brown, shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Mo., over the summer. Protests have erupted in several parts of the country in recent weeks after a grand jury chose not to indict the officer.

The marching crowd on Friday was a mixed bag of men and women, black and white. Most were young. Some were from Bates College, some were not, according to one protester. They carried signs with a variety of now-familiar messages written upon them.

As they moved through the city, they chanted of their discontent.

“Hands up, don’t shoot” was replaced by “We can’t breathe,” a reference to Eric Garner, who died as a result of a confrontation with the New York Police Department in July.

Protesters believe the police officer who applied a choke hold should have been indicted. He was not.

“How many lives does it take?” the Lewiston protesters chanted before switching to a new refrain.

“What do we want?” they cried. “Justice. What if we don’t get it? Shut it down!”

In spite of that, the march was without the violence or mayhem that have marked similar protests in other cities. Lewiston police escorted the group, but never got out of their vehicles to confront them. 

“Show me what democracy looks like,” they chanted. “This is what democracy looks like!”

Traffic was slowed to a stop in various areas along Campus Avenue, Ash, Pine, Bartlett and nearby streets, but those snarls did not last for more than a minute at a time. Some passing motorists honked in support. Others just waited until they could proceed again.

As they marched, the protesters drew interest from the community. Some people rushed to street corners to see what the shouting was about.

“I like it,” said one man, walking a small dog along Ash Street. “It’s about time, I think.”

Others poked their heads from apartment windows to watch the marchers and to join the chorus.

“Eric Garner, Michael Brown, shut this crazy system down,” they hollered into the night, along with, “Black lives matter,” an utterance that has spread cross the country since the controversial deaths over the summer.

At about 5:30 p.m., the group turned from Bartlett Street onto Birch. They then marched to the B Street Health Center where the group began to break up. Marchers went inside or went to their cars to go home.

There were no long traffic interruptions and no clashes between police and protesters. No arrests were made, and no injuries reported.

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