Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in downtown Bangor on Monday evening protesting racial inequality, police brutality and last week’s death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
While the first few hours were peaceful and non-confrontational between police and protesters, tension evolved hours into the protest as police warned a smaller group of protesters — seemingly unaffiliated with the original organizers of the rally — to leave Bangor Police Department property or risk being arrested.
Clockwise from top right: Hundreds of protesters carry signs as they march through downtown Bangor on June 1 to protest the killing of Black Americans; a protester stands among police officers outside the Bangor Police Department; a woman with #ICantBreathe written on her face mask glances out at the crowd; Deputy Jason McAmbley, left, and a protester embrace after McAmbley kneeled with the demonstrators; Bangor City Councilor Angela Okafor shares stories of the discrimination her son faces; protesters chant as they march through downtown Bangor. [Natalie Williams | BDN]
The rally began at 5 p.m. by the Bangor Public Library, with people lining Harlow Street and filling Peirce Park.
“Say his name,” protesters chanted. “George Floyd.”
While demonstrators gathered near the Bangor Public Library, speakers David Patrick of the group Racial Equity and Justice that arranged the protest, City Councilor Angela Okafor and Mayor Clare Davitt condemned the racial biases that have led to violence against black people and minorities nationwide.
Protesters, many holding “Black Lives Matter” signs, lined Harlow Street in front of the library, which was shut off to traffic, and gathered around the speakers. Most protesters wore face coverings as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus.
“Your words on social media posts are not enough. Your promises are not enough,” Okafor said to the crowd. “I can’t breathe because your privilege has caused me a lot of hardship and pain.”
Demonstrators later walked through downtown Bangor and up Main Street to Davenport Park at the intersection of Main and Cedar streets, across from the Bangor Police Department.
Clockwise from top right: Protesters kneel and raise their hands in the air during an anti-racism protest outside the Bangor Police Department on June 1; Diondre Duffy of Lincoln, right, protests outside the Bangor Police Department; a woman with “I Can’t Breathe” written on her face mask glances out at the crowd of an anti-racism protest in Bangor; a protester stands among a sea of fellow protesters and signs outside the Bangor Police Department; a woman stands at the edge of the group after an anti-racism protest made its way to the Bangor Police Department; organizer Desiree Vargas from Racial Equity and Justice speaks about injustices at the beginning of a protest in downtown Bangor. [Natalie Williams | BDN]
Additional speakers addressed the crowd and an a cappella group from the University of Maine performed at Davenport Park before protesters crossed Main Street onto Bangor Police Department property.
Organizer Desiree Vargas from Racial Equity and Justice ended the protest, but a group of people decided to cross the street to continue protesting on police station property.
Police officers backed up against the police department building as protesters continued chanting Floyd’s name and drew closer.
At the forefront of that group was Dante McAllister, who led the group in the “Black Lives Matter” chant. He hugged police officers and shook their hands as the crowd continued chanting.
“Their reaction wasn’t aggressive, they wanted to hear what I wanted to say,” he said. “And I told them, and showed it. We all have to love each other.”
Around 8 p.m. after most protesters — including the march organizers — had left, a group of fewer than 100 remained at the Bangor Police Department. Some of these were newcomers, who were not part of the original protest.
At that point, Bangor police gave the crowd two warnings to leave the property and called in reinforcement from the Brewer Police Department and the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office.
The protesters moved onto private property adjacent to the police station, and more than 20 officers equipped with face shields and batons blocked the entrance to the Bangor Police parking lot, a narrow strip of grass separating them from the protesters.
Clockwise from top right: Protesters gather outside the Bangor Police Department on June 1 to protest George Floyd’s death; protesters hold their signs over garage windows at the Bangor Police Department; officers equipped with face shields and batons lined up at the edge of the Bangor Police Department parking lot; a protester stands outside the Bangor Police Department. [Natalie Williams | BDN]
By this time, there were few black lives matter chants. Most people who were still there were not part of the organized rally. Eventually, police cleared the scene at 10 p.m., leaving a few stragglers behind.
Over the past week, protesters across the country have called attention to racial injustice and police brutality through rallies. The first one started in Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd, a black man, who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pinned him to the ground, kneeling on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
The police officer, Derek Chauvin, was charged with murder. Three others who were present during Floyd’s death have not been charged, but they have been fired from the Minneapolis Police Department.
Two autopsies released Monday cited differing causes of death — a private autopsy by doctors working with Floyd’s family cited asphyxiation while the official coroner’s report cited cardiopulmonary arrest — but agreed Floyd’s death was a homicide, The New York Times reported.
Rallies have been largely peaceful during the day, though some have turned violent overnight.
Bangor’s protest was one of many that Floyd’s death sparked over the past few days in Maine. Multiple protests in Portland started last week, and hundreds gathered there again on Sunday, ending up on the steps of the police station in Maine’s largest city.
On Sunday afternoon, hundreds of people took to the streets to protest police brutality and racial inequality in Lewiston-Auburn and Belfast, and dozens of people flocked to the University of Maine flagship campus, which has been closed since March.
On Monday afternoon, hundreds also gathered in Waterville and Rockland. In Rockland, Knox County Sheriff Tim Carroll and Rockland police Chief Chris Young joined protesters as they knelt silently for nine minutes.
In Bangor, the protest took place hours after the city’s police department and the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People issued a joint statement condemning the “horrific actions” of the Minneapolis police officers that led to Floyd’s death.