WATERVILLE — City Council candidate Jibryne Karter III has come forward to say he organized downtown rallies in recent days to voice support for law enforcement and the white police officer who last month shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo.

In an interview Thursday, Karter said he thinks there is a lot of information in the case that hasn’t been disclosed to the public.

“Al Sharpton is taking the opportunity to act like Martin Luther King instead of having the truth,” Karter said of the civil rights activist. “In a lot of neighborhoods, there are a lot of black shootings with black people killing black people, even black children. And white people doing the same thing. It doesn’t matter what race, and when these things happen, it’s not necessarily having Al Sharpton jump on board. He doesn’t jump on board for that.”

The death of Michael Brown, who was shot Aug. 9 by Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson, prompted massive protests and controversial police responses to those rallies, while stoking a national debate about police tactics and race.

In Waterville, protesters this week walked on the sidewalk at the intersection of Main and Elm streets downtown, and they would not say who had organized the rally.

In response to a Morning Sentinel story about the protest, Karter posted a YouTube video identifying himself as the organizer after initially wanting to remain anonymous. Karter personally attended a Waterville rally Thursday “to show that I’m not trying to hide at all.”

“I had been reading the news, watching TV broadcasts and also hearing information on YouTube just as the rest of you have about the Michael Brown case in Ferguson,” Karter, 30, says in the video. “The purpose of this demonstration was to promote our right to be innocent until proven guilty. Officer Wilson has not yet had a trial and the facts are not all yet known.”

In the four-minute video, Karter goes on to say that the reason he had not identified himself as the organizer of the rallies, which have been taking place since Monday, is that he did not want his position on the case to affect his campaign for City Council. He is running as an unenrolled candidate against incumbent Dana Bushee, a Democrat, in Ward 6. Reached through social media, Bushee said she had no comment on Karter’s statements.

“It’s really interesting. There’s a lot of support,” Karter said. “It’s really not about supporting the police. It’s about the right to be innocent until proven guilty, and I think that applies to Officer Wilson. This event has nothing to do with my campaign. It’s just about me feeling like it’s the right thing to do.”

So far about a dozen people, including friends and several people whom Karter says he didn’t know before the rallies started, have been involved in distributing handouts and holding up signs that say “No vigilante justice” and “Innocent until proven guilty.”

“When someone is shot six times, your immediate reaction is, ‘Oh my God, why?'” Karter said. “Of course I was upset, but then I heard different eyewitness accounts, one of which included that Brown had slammed the police officer’s door and also assaulted the police officer in his car, which means the officer was at risk.”

Karter said he asked police officers what the standard procedure would be in such a situation.

“They said lethal force is required. And I said OK, if that’s what you’re taught to do, then he did his job and at this point he is innocent until proven guilty. He really just did his job, because that’s what they’re trained to do.”

Circumstances of Brown’s death are in dispute, with police saying Brown was shot during a fight for the officer’s gun, while some witnesses say Brown’s hands were in the air. Meanwhile, the FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting.

The handouts provided by Waterville protesters include a description of an armed robbery at a convenience store where Brown could have possibly been a suspect; another account in which Brown attacks Wilson in his car and grabs his gun; and another account in which Wilson backs his car up, almost hitting Brown and the friend he was walking with, grabs Brown by the neck and draws his weapon on them.

Justin Emery, 41, of Waterville, said he heard about the rallies downtown from a friend and decided to show up on Thursday to participate.

“I’m a firm believer in every person being innocent until they are proven guilty,” he said. “That’s a constitutional right. Yes, it is tragic that someone died, but we still need to give the officer the chance to go through the process. I honestly don’t know what happened, and I prefer to wait until after his trial is over to make judgments myself.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

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