ROCKLAND, Maine — Local police knelt with protesters today and helped clear traffic so organizers could take their chants against police brutality and the death of George Floyd down Main Street.
“Thank you Rockland Police and Knox County [Sheriff’s Office],” Melissa Barez, a black Rockland resident said to a crowd at the Knox County Courthouse. “I have lived here for 28 years. Twenty-eight years in this town and on these roads, and I have never been more proud of my town than I am right now. This is beautiful.”
About 200 people turned out Monday for the peaceful protest in Rockland, joining the protests that have erupted across the country after the death of Floyd, a black man, while in police custody. Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer who held his knee to Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes, was charged with murder on Friday.
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Initially the Rockland protest, organized by Meg Joseph, Daniel Oakes and Matthew Mulrey, was going to be contained to Chapman Park, at the intersection of Rt. 1 and Main Street, but police officers blocked off traffic to Main Street so the protesters could march down the street, ending up at the courthouse.
Prior to the march down Main Street, Rockland Police Chief Chris Young and Knox County Sheriff Time Carroll joined the group in kneeling in silence for nine minutes, the approximate length of time that Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck.
While neither Carroll or Young spoke Monday, Young issued a statement on the department’s Facebook page Monday morning calling Floyd’s death “murder.”
“As law enforcement, we strive to hold ourselves to a higher standard. We must begin by coming forward and condemning unjust police violence. If we remain silent in the face of injustice, we fail to protect and serve. What happened to George Floyd is despicable – it should have never happened, and should never happen again.We don’t believe in letting evil flourish. We stand with you,” Young said.
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Mulrey led the protest with chants of “I can’t breathe,” “No justice, no peace, no racist police” ― ringing through his megaphone and then through the crowd of protesters.
“I am here because there are Americans being slaughtered in the streets. Stricken down for no other reason than the color of their skin,” Mulrey, a military veteran said. “What is happening all over the country [with police brutality] is disgusting. No human being should be treated that way and I’m out here today to support my fellow Americans.”
Circulating among the crowd were flyers listing the names of people of color who have died from police brutality and racially-motivated killings. Also on the flyers were a list of demands that the protesters are seeking, including civilian oversight boards for Maine police departments, comprehensive anti-domestic violence initiatives, for social workers to be included on first responder calls and for police officers to receive training on anti-racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination.
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When addressing the crowd that gathered at the end of the march on the footsteps of the courthouse, Barez said the protests were not aiming to create sides.
“I don’t want this to turn into an us versus them. There is no us versus them. It is all of us,” Barez said. “I love you all. I am proud of you all. I am thankful for you all.”