PORTLAND, Maine — More than 50 people gathered Thursday night in Monument Square as part of a nationwide mourning of victims of police brutality, including Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man fatally shot in Missouri last weekend and whose death sparked violent protests.
“The time for change is upon us,” said organizer Mo Nichols to mourners as they met at the square, “but tonight is not for that purpose. Tonight is for us to come together and reflect on the weight of this tragedy and remember those who have met similar fates.”
Vigils were organized throughout the country and kept together by a national Facebook page, which remained strict about the purpose of the gatherings. A post on the national page asked that those in attendance come as mourners or activists and not as protesters.
“It seems like this is just starting because of Missouri,” Jonathan Kittaka said of the heightened national attention to police brutality. “I’m glad to see this coming to light for some people, but it has been going on for a long time and needs to stop. We’re just trying to get the word out there.”
Photos of young, black men, women and children who died as a result of police actions were distributed to the crowd, and the details of their deaths were read aloud. All of the victims mentioned — including Eric Garner, Ervin Jefferson and Alonzo Ashley — were unarmed.
“I’m here because killing black people is not OK. It’s 2014,” said Chaka-Khan Gordan. “I want to do everything I can to get involved and help organize ways to talk about this. This should never happen.”
“People see the race of our president and think the time of anti-blackness is over, but we need to open people’s eyes to what’s happening in our country. People are being killed because they’re black,” said Nichols. “This may feel far away to some of us because it’s not in Maine, but the fact that it’s happening at all is enough of a reason to get involved.”
A clipboard was circulating throughout the gathering, so those who felt passionate about Nichols’ cause could help spread information in the future.
“The people who are supposed to be protecting us and serving us are killing our children, our parents and our brothers and sisters,” Nichols said. “It must stop.”