LEWISTON — As people started arriving Monday afternoon at Kennedy Park for a Black Lives Matter protest, 13-year-old Musdaf Said stood beside a couple of friends watching. 

The Lewiston Middle School student said he supported the cause that drew more than 350 people to the impromptu march to demand justice in the wake of the May 25 killing of George Floyd by police in Minnesota.

“We’re getting killed for walking in the streets,” Said said. “These cops keep shooting us for dead.” 

In the hope of forging a better future, a racially mixed and mostly young crowd marched more than five miles through Lewiston and Auburn on Monday afternoon holding signs and chanting for justice. 

“For too long, black lives have been taken too early,” said Lewiston City Council member Safiya Khalid. It has to stop, she told the crowd from the steps of the police station. 

“No more. No more violence. No more senseless killings,” Khalid told the cheering crowd. “It has gone on for way too long.” 

Some of the signs held by marchers contained lists of the familiar names of black men and women who died at the hands of the police or white vigilantes. 

Cliff Odle, who teaches theater at Bates College, said he came because his 13-year-old daughter heard about the rally and he thought they should attend. 

Odle called the event “a necessary action” to give a voice to the demand for justice that is ringing throughout the country. 

Lewiston, he said, is not an island, but part of a whole that has seen too many die like Floyd, pinned beneath a police officer’s knee as he begged, fruitlessly, for breath. 

The officer has been charged with third-degree murder as authorities in Minnesota continue to investigate. Three other officers at the scene of Floyd’s death were fired. 

The killing has set off a surge of protests across the country that have included peaceful demonstrations by millions, as well as clashes between police and more militant protesters in many large cities and some smaller communities. 

Lewiston Mayor Mark Cayer, who marched along with the crowd, said he knows there is frustration and anger that he can see plainly. 

But, he said, he hasn’t “lived it” like so many non-white Americans, so he came to hear them. 

It is important, Cayer said, for the city “to provide a safe place” for the community speak. 

The police were eager to offer protection for the marchers, blocking off intersections and shutting down traffic as at least 350 people hoofed around Lewiston and Auburn chanting “No Justice/No Peace” and other slogans. 

Perhaps the most common one was a call and response, “Say his name/George Floyd” over and over, an effort to burrow his name and his death into the consciousness of the nation. 

The marchers set out from Kennedy Park about 3:15 p.m., headed down Chestnut Street to Lincoln Street before crossing the bridge into Auburn. 

A police officer kneels in solidarity with a demonstrator in front of the Lewiston Police station on Monday evening at the end of a rally protesting the death of George Floyd during a confrontation with police last week in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Setting a brisk pace, they walked on Court Street until they reached Goff Street, proceeding to Dennison Street to Turner Street and then back across the bridge, down Lisbon Street and back to the park. 

Four miles in little more than an hour wasn’t quite enough. The marchers headed up Birch Street to Bartlett Street and then turned back to the park along Walnut Street. 

There were no serious problems for police along the route. 

At one point, a black man stood in front of a state police car for a minute, blocking its way, until he gave way to the pleading of other marchers to let the officer do his job. 

At the end of the march, a woman yelling that “All Lives Matter” drew a small crowd ready to argue, but they dispersed after a number of people urged them not to let her effort to antagonize them succeed. 

Odle said he was encouraged to see so many young people pushing for a more just world. 

His generation, he said, “dropped the ball,” but he’s determined to do what he can to create a better future for his children. 

Lewiston City Councilor Safiya Khalid addresses the crowd Monday afternoon at the conclusion of the Black Lives Matters rally at the Lewiston Police station. She urged everyone to vote. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

As a black man, Odle said, he knows what it’s like to be pulled over by police while he’s driving or eyed suspiciously for matching some vague description of a possible criminal. 

It’s not how the country should be, he said. 

By the time the marchers reached the police station beside the park about 4:45 p.m., Khalid said she had long since lost her voice. 

But when offered a megaphone, she managed to get a few words out, even if most couldn’t hear them especially well. 

Khalid, the first elected city councilor from the Somali community in Lewiston, told them she is a black woman with black brothers. 

She said the country needs reform. Police need reform, Khalid added. 

To get the policy changes that will do the job, she said, is going to take work. 

“You are the change we want to see in this country,” Khalid told the crowd.  

“We need to get our ballots and votes,” Khalid said, and get involved in elections for local, state and national offices to make sure the best candidates win. 

“We have to do more,” she said. 

Then she asked the crowd, “What are you going to do?” 

The answer came loud and clear: “Vote! Vote! Vote!” 

Protesters march Monday afternoon during a Black Lives Matters rally down Chestnut St. in Lewiston after leaving Kennedy Park. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

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