WATERVILLE — Chants of “Black lives matter” and “We are unstoppable, another world is possible” filled the crisp fall air as an estimated 300 people marched nearly 2 miles from Colby College into downtown Waterville.

The Maine March for Racial Justice was a sister march to the national March for Racial Justice held Saturday in Washington, D.C. The purpose of both marches was to protest police brutality and support efforts toward racial equality.

Three Colby College students — Marcques Houston, Adrienne Carmack and Angie Peterson — organized the march along with other volunteers. The long line of people, ranging from children to senior residents, moved peacefully through the city and met little resistance.

After the march, organizers held five workshops in the downtown area to spur conversations about racism, white privilege and nonviolent resistance.

Houston, a 21-year-old senior studying English and American studies, said at first they were surprised by the support they received for the event.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and Maine’s People Alliance, as well as deans at the college and local organizations like the Pleasant Street United Methodist Church, lent support to the march and rally in one way or another, Houston said. Some deans at Colby College even found funding for the march.

“Seeing that kind of support was really heartwarming,” he said.

Carmack first approached people about organizing in August, Houston said, and he jumped at the opportunity.

As an African-American who grew up in Monmouth, Houston said having a local event was important to him.

“Race gets ignored,” he said, because of the lack of diversity in Maine. “People just like to think this doesn’t exist.”

But racial injustice has affected him, which is why he wants to expose people to these ideas, he said.

Peterson, a 21-year-old senior studying anthropology and African-American studies, said her focus was on visibility.

“We’re here today for all of the black and brown people in Maine and across the country who face police brutality,” she said. “(…) We hope the fight for racial justice doesn’t end today. It certainly didn’t start today.”

The marchers kept chanting and cheering while walking on the sidewalks from Mayflower Hill Drive into downtown. They carried signs reading “White silence is violence,” “Rise, love, resist,” and “No ban on stolen land.”

A few passing cars beeped or waved in solidarity, and others walking by clapped or joined in.

Deb Large, of Hallowell, came to the march to support racial equality, she said.

“I have an interracial family. The youngest is black,” said Large, who also went to the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. “I’m well aware of the racism that is around.”

When they reached Castonguay Square, some people shouted “All lives matter” in response to the marchers’ chants, but left after a few minutes.

Speakers, including students, political candidates and professional activists, took to the steps of Waterville City Hall before the crowd of hundreds.

“We’re not just marching against something,” said Ben Chin, a mayoral candidate in Lewiston. “We’re marching for something.”

Chin said that as he goes door-to-door in his city, he sees that people want the same things, regardless of their skin color or immigrant status.

Rabbi Rachel Isaacs, who serves the Beth Israel Congregation in Waterville, spoke about the local incidents that caused alarm for her congregation earlier this year. In December, an unknown person spray-painted a swastika on a rock at the Quarry Road Recreation Center.

It was the first time Isaacs felt they needed police protection.

Then she recalled what white supremacists said in Charlottesville, Virginia while carrying torches: “Jews will not replace us.”

“I never thought — this is how privileged I was — this would be a reality for Jewish Americans,” Isaacs said.

As a faith leader, Isaacs said she believes people have a responsibility to ensure equity for others.

“We also need to be there for one another, every single day,” she said. “Not just for a march, not just on election day.”

Anne Marie Wolf, 50, of Farmington, said she came to the march because racism “is still such a serious problem” and, as a white person, she has a special responsibility to take action.

Wolf, who wore a pink pussyhat on Sunday, also attended the sister marches in Augusta for the Women’s March and the Climate March, she said.

Since the past November election, she has become much more active.

“I know Susan Collins’ D.C. number by heart now,” she said.

While she said reaching out to members of Congress and elected officials is also very important, the marches “help us remember we’re not alone.”

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

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Twitter: @madelinestamour