Three young people are asking the Portland City Council to hold the city’s police department accountable for what they say were acts of brutality during a protest in the Old Port on July 15.

Matthew Raymond, 21, of Portland told councilors Monday night that he came before them to “set the record straight,” and called on the council to start an inquiry into whether excessive force was used during the arrests of 18 people during a rally that drew 150 marchers to protest recent shootings of black men by police officers.

Raymond said protesters who were not arrested have photographs and video showing officers “twisting” protesters’ arms, “punching” them and “slamming” them against walls while making arrests. He also said that officers “targeted” people of color when they made arrests.

“Police brutality does in fact occur. We witnessed that,” Raymond said during the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting. Raymond was one of the protesters, but not among those arrested.

A call to Chief Michael Sauschuck seeking comment was not returned Monday night, but shortly after the protest he and city officials praised police officers for the way they conducted themselves during what could have been a violent situation.

“The commitment and professionalism shown by every member of the Portland Police Department is a tremendous example of what makes this city great,” City Manager Jon Jennings said at the time.


Councilor Jill Duson said the chief would be obligated to investigate his officers’ conduct if Raymond or anyone else filed a complaint.

Raymond hasn’t filed a complaint, but asked the council to make it mandatory for all Portland police officers to wear body cameras during their shifts. Duson said she could help facilitate an inquiry if the protesters asked for her assistance.

“I applaud them for coming out and speaking to us. I appreciate their energy,” Duson said after the meeting.

Raymond said an attorney advised him not to release the evidence until after all 18 people appear in court later this month. Likewise, he said the protesters who were arrested wouldn’t speak publicly until after their court proceedings.

The protest, organized by members of the Portland Racial Justice Congress, drew about 150 people who protested the shootings of black men by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota last month. Members of the group blocked a busy intersection on Commercial Street for most of the night.

Raymond said intake officers at the Cumberland County Jail also forced four female protesters to remove their hijabs, traditional headscarves worn by female adherents of Islam to preserve modesty.


“Racism is alive and well in the state of Maine and the city of Portland, as is police brutality,” Raymond told the council.

Raymond is vice president of the student body at the University of Southern Maine, where he is a senior majoring in history. Deena Metzler of Portland and Iris Sangiovanni of South Portland also spoke to the council about the protest.

Mayor Ethan Strimling said he has not seen any evidence that officers used excessive force during the arrests. Strimling was not at the protest and relied on television coverage.

“I feel the police department did a good job of balancing their right to protest against ensuring the public’s safety,” he said. “The city remained safe that night and no one got hurt.”

However, Strimling said he would support outfitting officers with body cameras. “I’m all for as much transparency as possible,” he said.

Strimling also said county jail officers made a mistake when they forced the women to remove their headscarves.

“That was not OK. It should not have happened,” Strimling said.


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