PORTLAND, Maine — The city’s sixth rally in protest of racism and the death of George Floyd was bigger than the rest and the most poised yet, with well over 1,000 peaceful people overflowing into the street at City Hall.
The rally was marked by a singular admission of fault and exhortations that America must improve to live up to its self-billing as a land where equality rules. Democratic state Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross told the crowd that people must make themselves heard where power resides.
“We no longer want your statement if you release it on Facebook but you never give it any voice when you’re speaking to the chamber of commerce,” Ross said.
Westbrook Police Chief Janine Roberts addressed the crowd to apologize for a comment she made to press earlier in the day, a variation of “All Lives Matter.” Widely derided as racist, the comment deflected from the point illustrated by Floyd’s death ― that “Black Lives Matter” underlines the brutality African-Americans often suffer at the hands of the police and isn’t intended to be a measurement of the value of one race over another.
“I screwed up,” Roberts said to the rally.
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One speaker, a black man who identified himself as an organizer with Maine Youth Justice, said that African-Americans must become more important to America’s leaders.
“We are going to prioritize Black youth voices,” the speaker said. “The problems that youth go through being Black in America is not a problem that we created.”
Portland’s rally on Tuesday was largely peaceful, with City Manager Jon Jennings and Police Chief Frank Clark joining protesters in taking a knee outside police headquarters on Middle Street. The protest was at times uplifting and fiery but no trouble came until well after the event ended, when police arrested 10 people after some threw fireworks and water bottles. They had been ordered to disperse.
Monday’s demonstration was rockier still, with police arresting 23 people as burglaries and criminal mischief occurred at several businesses in downtown areas. Some protesters threw water bottles and police fired pepper spray.
Watch: Portland sees Maine’s largest rally over George Floyd