WATERVILLE — Hundreds of emotional-yet-peaceful protesters gathered Sunday afternoon in downtown Waterville to remember George Floyd, the 46-year-old black man who died last month while in police custody in Minneapolis.

The George Floyd remembrance march, which traveled along Spring Place and Elm Street before going through downtown and ending at Head of Falls, brought a crowd estimated at 500, including police officers from Fairfield, Oakland, Waterville and Winslow, some marching alongside protesters.

The event was organized by Phil Bofia, a former Waterville city councilor and current members of the city’s charter commission. He was granted a “meeting and assemblage” permit by the Waterville Police Department for the one-hour march.

Vince Costen, 5, looks toward the sky while held Sunday by his mother, Jazmine, and father, Trevor, of Winslow, as the family participates in a rally at Head of Falls in Waterville. The gathering followed a George Floyd remembrance march through downtown Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“Today is a day for remembrance for George Floyd,” Bofia told the crowd. “This is a day for peace and unity. We’re all in this together, and that’s what we’re going to show today.”

Bofia started the event by greeting the crowd, which continued to grow as protesters marched. He reminded marchers of the reason for gathering and said violence would not be accepted at the event. He also reminded the crowd to main the social distancing required by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At noon, marchers began from the Goodwill parking lot at the Concourse, making their way up Spring Place. As made their way down Elm Street and through downtown, many marchers were carrying signs and chanting in support of justice, peace and Black Lives Matter.

Among the marchers was Valerie M. Dionne of Waterville, an associate professor of French at Colby College.and director of the Oak Institute for Human Rights. She said Sunday’s protest was at least the third she had attended to show solidarity and support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Black Lives Matter is important right now because of our presidency,” Dionne said, “and it matters because we haven’t been speaking up about the issue of systemic racism for a long time.”

Floyd died May 25 when then-Officer Derek Chauvin, 44, of the Minneapolis Police Department kneeled on the back of Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as he was handcuffed and on the ground, pleading he could not breathe.

Floyd was pronounced dead at the scene. Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers have been charged in Floyd’s death.

As marchers arrived at Head of Falls, the chanting continued until Bofia began his opening remarks. Marchers were met by a counter-protester, who was quickly removed by police with no issues. While the mood was tense at times, Bofia encouraged all to remain peaceful.

Chief Joseph Massey of the Waterville Police Department was among several speakers. His appearance, and those of other local police officers, was viewed as a sign of support and solidarity.

“Today, we march to mourn George Floyd, and extend our condolences to the family, and address the inequalities of social justice among races,” Massey said. “Police chiefs can no longer remain silent when these types of egregious acts are committed by law enforcement officers.

“Not only must we stand together to denounce these types of violence against our citizens, but we must stand with those in our community that are the most affected by police misconduct.”

Lorelei Kelley of Waterville holds her daughter, Annora, 4, as her son, Josiah, 13, records the event Sunday during a rally at Head of Falls in Waterville. The rally followed a George Floyd remembrance march through downtown Waterville. Local police participated in the march and rally. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Coltrane McRae, one of the speakers, spoke of having grown up in a predominantly white area and of seeing white privilege.

“I was born black and there is nothing I can do to change that,” McRae said. “Most of my life, I have been surrounded by white people. The only black people that were constantly in my life were my family.

“It was obvious to me that my white friends had more freedom. They didn’t have a reason to be scared, but I did. A police officer can take one look at me and decide that was my moment to die. My parents never failed to instill in me what it means to be black. As a black person, I know I am often looked at and perceived in a different way. I have to prove that I’m just as smart, that I’m just as respected or well-mannered, and it’s all because of the color of my skin.”

McRae explained that while she has many white friends, they do not know the struggles she has faced — and still faces.

“Regardless of how poorly I have been treated because of the color of my skin,” McRae said, “I will continue to think for the rest of my life how I wouldn’t change my skin tone, my race or my ethnicity for the world. I can stand here today and tell you I am proud to be black and grateful to be protesting, and demand justice for all of the black lives that have been taken.”

Several others speakers encouraged the protesters to publicly oppose injustice, learn more about systemic racism and have those conversations with others, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable they might be.

At about 1 p.m., Bofia ended the march by asking participants and police to kneel for almost nine minutes — the amount of time Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s neck.

While most marchers were on one knee, Bofia had them repeat Floyd’s last words and called for everyone to oppose and speak against racism.

“We are here to get together as a community,” Bofia said, “to show people that we want change and we want visible change and we want it today.”

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under:

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.