PORTLAND, Maine — Roughly 300 turned out for a demonstration through city streets here on Saturday evening, the latest in a flurry of protests after the grand jury ruling in the fatal March shooting of Breonna Taylor by police in Louisville, Kentucky.
Saturday’s rally was organized by BLACK P.O.W.E.R., a Black-led collective which amended their name this week to avoid confusion with other Maine groups who have rallied under the Black Lives Matter banner this summer.
Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, was fatally shot by police after police who had a no-knock warrant executed a botched narcotics raid on her apartment in March. Wearing face masks, protesters amassed in Lincoln Park before pacing the Old Port, where people dined at outdoor patios, and gathering for music, stories and speeches in Deering Oaks Park.
“The transformation starts with yourself,” one organizer said in a speech aimed at those who have resisted their movement. “I am here to tell you that your ignorance has transformed into violence that has caused social and economic inequality for minorities for decades.”
The group read a broad platform of policy demands for city and state government. Along with environmental and school issues, the demands involved specific protocols for the broader call to defund police, including removing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office from One City Center, establishing safeguards that protect workers from marijuana testing policies, disbanding the Maine Information and Analysis Center and banning facial recognition technology.
Organizers assembled medic and security teams for the rally, the latter cycling ahead to block off streets and intersections alongside Portland police officers. The group employed the same tactic at a rally held June 5, which drew more than 2,000 people and traversed several miles of the city over eight hours.
Christiana Marvray, an organizer with BLACK P.O.W.E.R., said that the group has spent the summer building capacity for the long haul, including establishing themselves as a non-profit entity and creating paid positions.
“All the work that we’ve been doing the last 3 months has been building an organizational structure so that we’re able to form relationships and do things in the most sustainable and responsible way possible,” Marvray said.
Rallies for racial justice have renewed in the U.S. after a grand jury found one officer guilty of a felony charge of wanton endangerment for firing rounds into Taylor’s adjacent apartment, which was occupied, but did not convict the officers for her death.
Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker III, reportedly maintained that he didn’t know who was entering the apartment when he fired one warning shot, which a top prosecutor said hit one of the officers in the leg. The officers, who were in plain clothes and knocked Taylor’s door down, fired back 32 rounds, killing Taylor.
Saturday’s rally was the third in Portland since Taylor’s grand jury ruling, with two others organized by a group identifying themselves as Black Lives Matter Maine.