More than 40 people gathered Tuesday evening at Fort Halifax Park in Winslow to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement and advocate for changes in law enforcement and education.

The demonstration was among many that have been held across the nation and throughout the world after George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died May 25 while in police custody in Minneapolis.

The protest began at 6 p.m. at Fort Halifax Park. The group marched up Bay Street in Winslow and across the bridge into Waterville, ending at City Hall.

Lilly Bohner speaks to other protesters during a Black Lives Matter protest Tuesday at city hall in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Lilly Bohner, 21, of Waterville led the march and addressed the crowd at City Hall.

“I’ve had people threaten me, harass me. People won’t stop. They just want to silence us, scare us,” Bohner said. “They know if we do this (expletive), things are going to change. And look at it. It’s already changing. I just want to tell all of you to educate your family. Educate your friends. Use your privilege.”

Bohner organized the protest with Hannah Comfort, 20, of Winslow and Ashley Hebert, 21, of Oakland. They said their goal was to bring greater awareness to the systematic racism they say exists in the Waterville area.

“Especially for Maine, it’s the second-whitest state in the country,” Comfort said before the protest. “So I’m sure we’ll have a majority-white crowd here tonight, but I think it’s important to use that privilege as a white person in Maine to say, ‘We’re not absent from this issue.’ Our whiteness kind of adds to the racism we see in our community, and we just want to make a stand for the people of color that we do have in this state.”

Bohner, Comfort and Hebert also organized a petition that explains the changes they feel need to be made to Waterville’s approaches to law enforcement and education. They plan to send the petition to the Waterville City Council.

The petition explains that the protesters want:

• The Breonna Taylor law put into action, which makes no-knock search warrants illegal.

• A public statement from the city that says it supports and stands with Black Lives Matter.

• Curriculum reform at the area’s public schools, particularly in English and social studies education.

• A ban on the use of choke holds by law enforcement officers.

• To eliminate the use of school resource officers, and replace them with counselors, psychologists and social workers.

• Mandatory deescalation, social work and diversity classes for law enforcement.

• No increase in the budget for the Waterville Police Department.

Black Lives Matter protesters march down Bay Street on Tuesday in Winslow. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Bohner, Comfort and Hebert emphasized that the Black Lives Matter movement aims to resolves issues beyond just law enforcement.

“One of the major calls to action right now is to end police brutality, but by no means is the movement limited to that,” Hebert said. “It branches across a whole array of issues like housing, employment, education, health care.

“Racism is embedded in our major structures in our society, and the Black Lives Matter movement, which is hard to summarize in a few sentences, demands racial equality in these predominant systems that haven’t allowed black lives to really matter for centuries.”

Nancy Hebert, a teacher at Waterville Senior High School, said she attended the march to support her daughter, Ashley, and the other young people who are trying to make a difference.

“It’s all young people here tonight, and you know what: They’re the only ones who can make a change,” Hebert said. “Seeing this, it makes me feel so good because I know the future is in good hands.”

For Bohner, there is one factor she believes can help reduce racism in America.

“Education is key. It’s how we can make change in this country,” Bohner said. “I asked my mom about racism and she told me, ‘People hate what they don’t understand,’ and that’s why I say education is key. Just go through history. Educate yourself about what has happened, and it will make more sense as to why we feel this way.”

Since Floyd’s death, a wave of protests has erupted in Maine, nationally and globally, including in Augusta, Bangor, Farmington, Lewiston, Portland, Skowhegan and Waterville.

Protests in Portland have grown since Floyd’s death, with a demonstration June 1 drawing more than 1,000 people to the city’s streets.

Floyd’s confrontation with police began after a convenience store clerk in Minneapolis called to report a man matching Floyd’s description tried to pay with a fraudulent $20 bill.

Floyd’s death was caught on video that shows Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck while Floyd was handcuffed on the ground and begging for air.

Black Lives Matter protesters gather at Fort Halifax Park in Winslow on Tuesday for a march to city hall in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd lost consciousness. He was pronounced dead at a Minneapolis hospital.

Three other officers were present while Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck.

Chauvin was arrested and initially charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter but an additional charge of second-degree murder has been added.

The three other officers at the scene of Floyd’s death have been arrested and charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

“People think George Floyd was just one person, but he was only the tipping point,” Bohner said. “He was the tipping point of why we’re so mad and tired right now.”

The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, 25, and Breonna Taylor, 26, have also been protested during recent demonstrations. Arbery was shot dead in February by father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael while jogging in a neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia. Gregory and Travis said they stopped Arbery after they suspected him of robbing homes that were under construction. Arbery’s death was also caught on camera.

The McMichaels and the man who took the video, William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., all face murder charges.

In March, Taylor, of Louisville, Kentucky, was killed after police officers executed a no-knock search warrant on the home she shared with her boyfriend under the suspicion her boyfriend and another man were selling drugs. A brief confrontation resulted in Taylor being shot at least eight times by police.

Taylor’s case is being investigated, but no arrests have been made.

“We want change, for the better, but most of all we just want to be equal,” Bohner said. “I’m tired of going out and being stereotyped. I’m not a threat. I’m just a person, a human being.”

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.

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.