Protesters with the Black Lives Matter movement plead with Brunswick officers Sunday night to take a knee with them.

Protesters plead with Brunswick police officers to take a knee with them near the Brunswick police station Sunday night. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

BRUNSWICK — Hundreds of people left a Black Lives Matter vigil held on the downtown Brunswick Mall Sunday night to march to the police station to protest acts of police brutality.

The protest at the police station was peaceful but tense at times, as protesters demanded officers take a knee. The group stood on the lawn of the police station, chanting, “no justice, no peace.”

Then they kneeled and with fists in the air, shouted over and over, “I can’t breathe.”

The words were in reference to George Floyd, a black man killed a week ago as a Minneapolis police officer held Floyd down with a knee to the back of his neck. Video recorded Floyd pleading with the officer to move his knee because he couldn’t breathe.

As a result, protests have broken out in cities across the country. Sunday afternoon, more than 300 protesters marched the streets of Portland and demonstrated for hours outside the Portland police station demanding to meet with Chief Frank Clark to discuss their concerns about racial bias after Floyd’s death, the Portland Press Herald reported.

Toby Holton of Brunswick was one of the protesters who marched to the Brunswick police station. A black man, he urged Brunswick officers to take a knee in solidarity with protesters.

“I’m asking you, from one man to another, just take a knee with me,” Holton said to Lt. Paul Hansen, who stepped forward instead and shook Holton’s hand and embraced him.

Other officers followed suit, though some protesters expressed anger that police didn’t kneel. Brunswick Police Cmdr. Mark Waltz said police didn’t take a knee because that could send the wrong message. While taking a knee could mean police support the Black Lives Matter movement, it also could send the message that Brunswick officers are like the officer who kneeled on George Floyd.

“I can tell you absolutely black lives matter,” Waltz said on Monday. “Absolutely we want people of every race in Brunswick to feel comfortable and safe. Again, we’re happy to meet and participate in community events. We’ll do everything we can to make people feel safe in Brunswick.”

Holton said he recently was stopped by a Brunswick officer for driving through a blinking red light and said the officer was very respectful and did his job. However, he said the United States has sat and watched the pot boil until it all evaporated regarding issues of racism and social injustice.

“The fires you’re seeing in these different states and the riots that you’re seeing in these different states are not the typical angry black man that people like to portray,” he said. “It’s tiredness. It’s people who are fed up, it’s people who are just done.”

Brunswick Police Chief Richard Rizzo said Monday that members of the Brunswick Police Department agree with the protesters.

“The killing of George Floyd disgusts all of us and embarrassed our profession,” Rizzo said.

Sunny Andersen of Lisbon also joined the protest. As a white person, she said she benefits from white privilege. The system America was built on is inherently racist and needs work, she argued.

“I know it goes deep,” Andersen said. “It’s not just the Brunswick Police Department, it’s not just the (Minneapolis) Police Department. It goes a lot further than that.”

She doesn’t know how much the protest Sunday in Brunswick did to dismantle that injustice, but it did offer an opportunity for healing, “and I think that’s so, so incredibly important.”

Rizzo thanked the protesters for keeping the protest peaceful Sunday night. He said he is willing to listen to suggestions for how the department can improve its relationship with the community and to sit down with any group to discuss how to help community members feel safer. He can be reached at (207) 721-4317 or by email at [email protected]

While Waltz said no one was arrested during the protest Sunday evening, a 21-year-old woman was arrested Sunday afternoon. Waltz said police got complaints the Bowdoin College student was complaining about police brutality and was accosting motorists with profanity and walking into traffic in the area of the Maine Street, Mill Street and Mason Street intersections. Police allegedly warned her not to use profanity or walk into traffic, but Waltz said she continued to approach other people and called on other people to vandalize The Great Impasta, a restaurant on lower Maine Street.

Police arrested her to diffuse the situation, Waltz said.

At least 100 people gather in front of the Brunswick police station Sunday to protest police brutality as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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