LEWISTON — Top law enforcement officials in Lewiston and Auburn on Monday condemned the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd last week and praised peaceful protest in reaction to its tragic nature.

Lewiston Police Chief Brian O’Malley speaks to the news media at a press conference earlier this year. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“Watching the video of a police officer kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck was disturbing and upsetting,” Lewiston Police Chief Brian O’Malley said in a prepared statement. “My sympathies go out to the friends and family of George Floyd and all of those who have been affected by this tragedy.”

Floyd’s death is “an injustice that I pray will result in swift justice to those responsible for his death,” Auburn Police Chief Jason Moen said.

“There is no one here at the Lewiston Police Department who believes what happened to Mr. Floyd was justified,” O’Malley said. “What I observed on the video was shocking and this type of behavior reflects negatively not only on the police officers of Minneapolis, but on law enforcement officers nationwide.

He said the training each of his officers undergoes in use of force, defensive tactics and bias-based policing are designed to “prevent the type of behavior that led to Mr. Floyd’s death.”

“People are understandably frustrated with what occurred in Minneapolis and many have protested peacefully to enact change in their communities and nationwide,” he said.

Adding their voices to the many demonstrations held nationally over the weekend, protesters here in the Twin Cities marched on Sunday from Festival Plaza in Auburn, through Lewiston’s downtown and back to Auburn, ending at the police station. On Monday, they protested in Kennedy Park in Lewiston.

Auburn Police Chief Jason Moen at a press conference last year. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“Protests are an opportunity for people’s voices to be heard,” Moen said Monday. “This country has been built around the Bill of Rights and our forefathers gave freedom of speech the highest priority. I encourage people to have their voice heard.”

O’Malley said the local protesters were able to express themselves “in a peaceful manner” in contrast to some incidents in major cities where demonstrations turned violent.

“I continue to encourage those who want to march or protest to do so in a nonviolent way,” O’Malley said.

Moen said the power of protest is weakened by violence.

“Those voices become lost when violence and destruction become part of the message,” he said. “I hope that our protests remain peaceful so people can have their voices heard.”

O’Malley said his department has been working with area groups, including the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine, in an effort to “create an atmosphere of partnership with the community so we can work to enhance the overall quality of life for all of our residents. The Lewiston Police Department strives to do this through mutual trust and respect and the fair and equitable enforcement of law, while carefully safeguarding the dignity of all who we serve.”

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