Bangor's Peirce Park was empty Saturday afternoon, except for a boy checking out the fountain, after organizers abruptly cancelled a rally in support of Columbus Day without explanation. Credit: Judy Harrison

A few people briefly rallied at Peirce Park in Bangor on Saturday afternoon in support of Columbus Day before quickly leaving, according to Bangor police.

A small group representing an organization calling itself the Mayflower Society showed up with signs and an American flag, Sgt. Wade Betters of the Bangor Police Department said. A few counterprotesters also attended.

The event lasted less than 10 minutes and ended peacefully, although participants exchanged words with a few counterprotesters, Betters said.

“No enforcement action was necessary and no injuries were reported,” he said in a statement late Saturday afternoon.

Michael Fitch, who announced the event Thursday, called a Bangor Daily News reporter about 2½ hours before the rally was supposed to begin to say it had been moved to Brewer. Twenty minutes later, the reporter received an email saying it had been cancelled.

Repeated telephone and email message to Fitch were not returned by 4 p.m. Saturday.

At 2:10 p.m., the square in front of the fountain in Peirce Park was empty except for a young boy apparently intrigued by the fountain.

Ryushin Malone, 37, of Bangor said he came to protest the rally in support of Columbus Day, which was scheduled to start at 2 p.m.

“I came because I’m against a genocidal maniac named Christopher Columbus,” Malone said, referring to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of native people killed and enslaved by Columbus and the Europeans who came after him.

The “Rally to Preserve American Memorials” was organized by the Mayflower Society, a group “designed to protect and preserve American memorials and traditions,” Fitch said Thursday in an email.

“While Indigenous People’s Day is an important holiday, it is unfair to the citizens who cherish Columbus Day to see it displaced,” he said. “We believe this is a social message of displacement being sponsored by the [Bangor] City Council.”

Bangor, Belfast, Brunswick, Orono and Portland are among the Maine municipalities that have joined the Indigenous Peoples’ Day movement by replacing or supplementing Columbus Day. Bar Harbor is considering it.

The Mayflower Society — which is not related to the organization of descendants of Plymouth Rock settlers — had planned to hold the rally from 2 to 4 p.m. in the park next to the Bangor Public Library on Harlow Street.

Activists have for years worked to shift public perception from the explorer’s arrival in the Americas to his treatment of indigenous people, saying the holiday glorifies colonization and genocide.

Columbus Day’s supporters, meanwhile, often see the holiday as a celebration of Italian culture.

Fitch said Friday that his group does not oppose Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but thinks it should not replace Columbus Day.

“It is not only possible, it is preferable to celebrate one culture without taking away from another. That’s our message,” he added.

He called the introduction of Indigenous Peoples’ Day “a microcosm of a larger issue: The replacement of American traditions and memorials, specifically of European descent.”

A protest over the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August turned deadly when a car allegedly driven by a man who had long sympathized with Nazi views plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters, leaving one dead and 19 injured.

Fitch’s group, which he said has as many as 100 members throughout New England, had promised to participate in a nonviolent protest.

BDN writer Nick Sambides Jr. contributed to this report.