More than 150 supporters of the group Black POWER spent hours Saturday afternoon and evening marching through Portland to call for an end to police brutality and draw attention to the group’s demands to address institutional racism in Maine.

The protesters, many wearing Black Lives Matter shirts and carrying signs, gathered at Lincoln Park to listen to a series of speakers who highlighted the impact of institutional racism on Black people in Maine. After that peaceful gathering, they marched through the streets of Portland to Deering Oaks.

“It’s not enough to create small change and be satisfied it’s done,” April Fournier of Portland told protesters at Lincoln Park.

Several protests have been held in Portland since the death of George Floyd in May at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked protests across the country. Last Saturday, more than 200 people gathered in Portland to protest police brutality and systemic racism, just days after a Kentucky grand jury decided not to hand up murder indictments for the three Louisville police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor in March.

Saturday’s “Justice 4 Black Lives II” demonstration was organized by Black POWER – short for Black Portland Organizers Working to End Racism – which was formerly known as Black Lives Matter Portland.

“We stand in solidarity with those seeking justice for Jacob Blake and Breonna Taylor and all victims of  modern day lynching. We have made demands of our local government to end systemic racism. We aren’t going anywhere. We’re here to stay,” the group posted on Twitter.

The group is calling attention to its list of demands of state and local officials, which includes moving jail, prison and police funds to schools, jobs and social services; closing Long Creek Youth Development Center; refusing to enforce federal immigration laws or cooperate with federal immigration authorities; removing police from all school budgets; and amending the Maine Constitution to allow the expungement of criminal records.

Protesters listen to a speaker Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Park in Portland. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

After leaving Lincoln Park, the group marched down Franklin Street and into the heart of the Old Port, blocking traffic and briefly pausing at intersections to chant, “Say her name, Breonna Taylor.” As they passed the side of police headquarters, a half-dozen police officers watched from the parking lot but did not interact with protesters.

Police officers moved their cruisers ahead of the protesters to block traffic. There were no signs of counterprotesters, though several passers-by called out “all lives matter” and swore at the demonstrators.

On Friday, Portland Police Chief Frank Clark posted a letter on social media saying organizers of the event had not contacted police. He said the organizers of a “Rally for Our President Donald Trump” did contact police about their plans to gather in front of City Hall on Saturday. That small rally had disbanded by the time Black POWER protesters assembled at Lincoln Park.

“When organizers don’t work with us, it impedes our ability to provide the highest level of protection and safety, in part by impacting our ability to plan for and properly deploy resources. Since other police calls for service do not stop merely because a protest is happening, it can also impact our ability to respond to calls for service and true emergencies throughout the remainder of the city,” Clark wrote.

In the Old Port, the group of protesters walked slowly down Commercial Street past outdoor dining areas crowded with diners. People on sidewalks stopped to take photos and videos of the protesters. Some joined the march or raised their fists in solidarity.

In front of police headquarters, protesters stopped briefly to sing “we’re going to fight all day and night until we get it right.” They did not speak from the steps of the police station as they have during past protests.

As the sun set, the protesters marched down Congress Street, signs hoisted overhead and bound for Deering Oaks.

“No justice, no peace,” they chanted, drowning out the sounds of cars and people. “No justice, no peace.”

Once at the park, they spread out on the grass near the stage to listen to activists share poems and stories and call for justice for Black lives.

“Our skin color should not make you feel afraid of us. We’re all the same,” Rita, a local activist who didn’t give her last name, told the crowd while asking them to share the message with allies. “Let them know we bleed the same and that we were born the same. Let them know justice must be served.”

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