Protesters occupy Middle Street in front of the Portland police station during the rally Thursday evening. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

More than 70 people demonstrated in front of the Portland police station Thursday evening against police brutality in the wake of months of national protests following the deaths of Blacks at the hands of law enforcement and less than two weeks before the presidential election.

The peaceful rally, which was organized by Black Lives Matter Maine, was held as part of a national protest movement – the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation – that began 24 years ago. Similar rallies were planned across the U.S. on Thursday.

In the past, similar gatherings in Maine’s largest city have focused on the killings by police of Black Americans such as George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky. Their names were mentioned again at Thursday’s rally in speeches and chants, but the tone of the event was slightly different with just days left before the Nov. 3 election.

Josh Wood, a member of Black Lives Matter Maine, started the rally by leading the crowd gathered on Middle Street in a chant: “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA.”

In a statement Thursday, national organizers said the country has reached a moment of “immense possibility, but also immense danger,” claiming the United States is in danger of becoming a fascist state as evidenced by federal forces kidnapping demonstrators on streets through the orders of President Trump, by organized acts of terror carried out by armed white militias, and by the government promoting white supremacist violence.

“Many of these acts of terror were incited and condoned by the highest office in the land, and Trump continues to embolden and empower his base to intimidate with shows of force,” the statement said.

A protester from Old Orchard Beach who gave the name “Tew” chants with protesters at the Portland police station for National Day of Action Against Police Brutality on Thursday evening. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Wood said that Black Lives Matter Maine and those who support its cause need to make it clearer to the news media and the public that they represent a racially and ethnically diverse group of people who are trying to build a new, inclusive chapter of the organization.

“We want to emphasize that all of us have lives and that we are not just faces and names on a TV screen,” Wood said. After leading the crowd in another chant in memory of Taylor, who was shot in her home during a raid by white police officers, he invited members of the crowd to speak.

Wood stood on the steps of the police station and used a bullhorn to address the group. Portland police blocked both ends of Middle Street to traffic during the rally.

Dennis Turenchalk, who lives in New York state, took the opportunity to speak to those on hand, most of whom were much younger than he.

Turenchalk said he had lived through the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal, which led to the resignation of former President Richard Nixon.

“Racism is alive and it’s in all of the country,” said Turenchalk, who is white. “It’s happening and it is happening everywhere.”

Michelle Brown, left, of North Berwick and Daria Cullen of Sanford hold Black Lives Matter signs during the protest Thursday at the Portland police station. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Trump supporters may deny it, but the president is a racist, Turenchalk asserted.

“I’m a student of the ’60s. My advice to you is to keep going, keep protesting. We got rid of Nixon and we can get rid of Trump,” he said.

Hamdia Ahmed, one of the leaders of Black Lives Matter Maine, thanked the crowd for coming and urged them to keep repeating the names of those Black citizens who have been killed by police. She said their names can never be forgotten if change is to take place. And Ahmed, without mentioning her choice for president, urged everyone to vote on Nov. 3.

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