SKOWHEGAN — More than 35 people lined the streets Sunday afternoon near Skowhegan Federated Church on Island Avenue to protest police brutality after a black man died while being arrested a week ago in Minneapolis.

George Floyd, 46, died last Monday after Officer Derek Chauvin, 44, of the Minneapolis Police Department was videotaped kneeling on Floyd’s neck as Floyd was handcuffed and on the ground, pleading for air.

Floyd of Minneapolis was pronounced dead at the scene.

Chauvin was arrested and charged Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

At Sunday’s demonstration in Skowhegan, protesters held signs while many drivers crossing the Margaret Chase Bridge honked and waved to show support.

“We’re out here demonstrating against this ongoing police brutality,” said Aliza Jones, one of the protest’s organizers. “This group has a lot of teachers, retired teachers, health care workers.

“A lot of us also had to do with changing the mascot at the high school. Some of us are involved with the LGBT community, so everyone out here works with the community, so we felt that we needed to come out here and stand together.”

Jones’ Delilah, 9, was also in attendance.

“I spoke with her a lot about all of this,” Jones said. “And she wanted to come out here and show her support, too.”

Jones said the protest came together in just 24 hours, with people spreading the word in conversations and Facebook posts.

Teacher Lori Swenson was among the protesters and said her decision to attend was based solely on the responsibility she feels to set an example for her third-grade students at Bloomfield Elementary School in Skowhegan.

“As a teacher, we do a lot of teaching our children that you don’t judge by anything that’s different,” Swenson said. “And how could I teach that and not come out here and protest against this?

“We’re role models for our children, and it’s important for people to get out there and show that we support people of all colors, religions and abilities. We need to show that we are all people. We’re all the same under our skin.”

Morrigan Knox-McCleod, an activist from Norridgewock, held back tears as she held a sign that read: “Black Lives Always Matter” and “9-Minutes,” the latter reportedly being the amount of time Chauvin had his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck.

“Black men and women are being killed on the streets, while a man with his hands in his pockets looks on in pride,” Knox-McCleod said. “We shouldn’t be fighting this anymore, and I hope that as humans, we learn that we’re all equal and that everybody deserves basic human decency and rights. Until they have them, we will fight. That’s why we’re here.”

The events leading up to Floyd’s death began when Minneapolis police received a report of a man matching Floyd’s description attempting to use a fraudulent bill at a convenience store. After Floyd was detained, Chauvin kneeled on his neck as three other officers looked on.

Each of the officers was fired following Floyd’s death. As of Sunday, however, Chauvin was the only officer charged with a crime. Chauvin has also been accused of ignoring the other officers’ concerns about Floyd, and continuing to kneel on Floyd’s neck until he lost consciousness.

“I hope people realize that people of color are being oppressed. We’ve known that for obviously a long time, but now is the time to speak up because people are being murdered,” protester Elizabeth Rich-Colton said.

“People of color need to have a voice, but we need to be more than just sitting in the background saying, ‘We support you.’ We need to show it.”

Since Floyd’s death, protests and demonstrations have been held in Minneapolis and several other cities or smaller communities nationwide. Many of the protests began as calm gatherings that grew violent. Some have seen protestors looting business and causing extensive damage to municipal and private property.

On Friday, the same day Chauvin’s was arrested, hundreds of protesters descended onto the streets of Portland, marching from City Hall to the Police Department on Middle Street and to Monument Square. Police said the protest was without incident.

“I was really bummed when I saw the march in Portland and I couldn’t make it, so I knew I had to come today,” said Adelle Belanger of Cornville. “I’ve been seeing a lot of stuff on social media, obviously, and I really just wanted to do something.

“It’s really important that people, especially people who are not people of color, show that they are with people of color in times like these. We all need to gather together and actually doing something. I mean, people have been marching for the same issue, basically, since America has been founded. There have been injustices and things have not been equal.”

Molly Shelly — 207-861-9256

[email protected]

Twitter: @mollyshellyyy

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