August 23, 2019
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Portland police charge 17 adults, 1 minor after Black Lives Matter demonstration

Jake Bleiberg | BDN
Jake Bleiberg | BDN
A protester is led away by police.

PORTLAND, Maine — Eighteen people arrested Friday night while participating in a demonstration against what organizers called “the brutalization of black and brown bodies at the hands of law enforcement” were released on bail from Cumberland County Jail overnight.

Seventeen adults and one 16-year-old were charged with the misdemeanor offense of obstructing a public way, according to information released by the city of Portland on Saturday.

About 100 people gathered in Lincoln Park for an hour before marching three blocks to the intersection of Pearl and Commercial streets, where they blocked traffic for several hours.

At one point a shirtless man who appeared intoxicated began a shouting match with the group, screaming “all lives matter” to returning cries of “black lives matter.”

In another tense moment, one of the organizers began a chant directed at local news blogger Carol McCracken, demanding she move away from where the group was gathered at the center of the intersection.

“If you’re a white ally, we need you to take care of her,” one of the women who was arrested called into a megaphone.

Later in the evening, a man driving an SUV attempted to push the vehicle through a group of women standing with their arms locked, gradually accelerating as they refused to yield until police officers pulled protesters out of the way.

Officers stopped the man and had him exit the SUV a block away from the center of the protest and spoke with him for several minutes before allowing him to drive away.

There was a police presence at the event throughout the evening, but it did not become confrontational until officers moved in to disperse the group, handcuffing several of the young female organizers and putting them into the back of a police wagon.

On Saturday afternoon, Portland police released the names of the 17 adults arrested, all but two of them Portland residents: Idman Abdul, 22; Salma Hassan, 22; Alba Briggs, 25, Mariana Angelo, 20; Sable Knapp, 26; Kennedy Johnson, 22; Caitlin Vaughan, 29; Sarah Lazar, 32; Nasreen Sheikhyousef, 25; Kennedy Barteaux, 38; Shadiyo Hussain-Ali, 23; Llewellyn Pinkerton, 21; Leah Karvette, 25; Barbara Van Derburgh, 22; Jenessa Hayden, 23, all of Portland; Karen Lane, 50, of Lewiston; and Lelia Saad, 24, of South Portland. The name of the minor teenager charged was withheld.

Earlier on Friday, the Portland Racial Justice Congress said in a release that they would gather “to show solidarity with victims of state-sanctioned murders at the hand of police nationwide.”

They released a list of demands including that Portland police Chief Michael Sauschuck issue a statement acknowledging “a nationwide problem with the brutalization of black and brown bodies at the hands of law enforcement” and affirming that his department is committed to creating trusting relationships with people of color, create more transparent police practices and begin using police cameras to promote safety and accountability.

On Saturday morning, Portland City Manager Jon Jennings released a statement praising the city’s police department and Sauschuck in particular.

“When I became city manager a little over a year ago I was very proud to begin to work with a great city staff,” Jennings wrote. “I honestly did not think I could be more proud until Friday night. The commitment and professionalism shown by every member of the Portland Police Department is a tremendous example of what makes this city great. I want to thank Chief Sauschuck and all the men and women who serve our city bravely and with great sacrifice. The City administration supports our police department wholeheartedly and can never thank them enough for all they do to keep us safe.”

Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling also issued a release Saturday praising Sauschuck for “admirable work” while addressing “those who feel the pain of injustices occurring across our country,” including in Orlando, Dallas, Minnesota and Louisiana.

“Your anger is, in many cases, justifiable. I’m angry too,” Strimling wrote. “To those who are moved to protest, I urge you to do so peacefully. I urge you to join the dialogue and work with the city and our police department to make sure your words are heard and not overshadowed by breaking laws meant to keep people safe. I understand and respect the right to protest. In fact, I too have engaged in protests and nonviolent civil disobedience on numerous occasions. I understand the importance of it as a tool to bring about change. But we must remember that it is when we stop shouting that we hear each other best.”

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