Portland Police Chief Frank Clark issued a statement Friday night that criticized Black Lives Matter Maine for failing to work with his department to ensure that a protest planned for Saturday would go forward safely.

Clark posted a statement to the police department’s Twitter page after 7 p.m. saying he was concerned that the latest protest had moved from the City Hall Plaza to in front of the police station on Middle Street and that it would likely end well after dark.

“This is disconcerting, not only based upon our experiences here in June, but also because some social media posts have espoused violence against police during this event,” the chief wrote. “Similarly unfortunate is the fact that protest organizers have not returned our calls and attempts to outreach and work with them to help ensure a peaceful and safe event that minimally impacts the city’s residents and visitors.”

Black Lives Matter Maine wasted no time in responding to Clark’s statement, posting on its Facebook page an hour later.

“We are extremely disheartened at the recent statement from the Portland Police Department. Black Lives Matter Maine would like to clarify at length and with nuance our intentions behind tomorrow’s scheduled rally,” the statement said. “BLM Maine is a group of young Black organizers working on behalf of disenfranchised Mainers who have experienced racism in the whitest state in America. We work to platform organizers of color, work in solidarity with nonprofit organizations, and effect real change.”

The statement went on to address Clark’s concerns about a lack of communication and the change of location.

“Our communications team did return requests for calls by the Portland Police Department, promising to retain communication for Saturday,” the statement said. “Despite the event the police refers to having no affiliation with our chapter, Chief Frank Clark continues to use the movement to generalize and discredit Black Portland youth.”

Portland Police Chief Frank Clark said “some social media posts have espoused violence against police during this event.”  Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Protests have been ongoing for months in several major cities to draw attention to violence against Black people by police. Recent protests have followed the decision by police in Louisville, Kentucky, not to charge officers in connection with the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed in her home in March when police were conducting a raid. Taylor’s death has become the latest rallying cry for those who don’t believe police are being held accountable for their actions.

Tensions between police and protesters in Louisville escalated after two officers were shot and wounded during demonstrations Wednesday night.

Clark’s statement also expressed concern that counter-protesters were planning to attend Saturday’s event in Portland – something that has happened in other U.S. cities, sometimes with deadly outcomes.

“As always, the Portland Police Department will work to ensure the Constitutional rights of any individual or group to peacefully and lawfully gather and protest,” he said. “I want to assure the public that your police force stands prepared to react and respond to any emergency, and will not tolerate violence towards our community or its police officers.”

The protest is scheduled for 4-8 p.m. on Saturday. Black Lives Matter Maine encouraged supporters not to be deterred.

“We still encourage you all to show up for Breonna Taylor tomorrow, and not let the disheartening, provocative messages detract from our message: that the people have the power,” the group’s statement read.

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