The owner of an Old Port building said he regrets hiring two armed guards who stood outside the building during an anti-racism protest this week.

Two men holding rifles stood outside of 193 Middle St. Tuesday, alarming some protesters who gathered to march against racism and police brutality.

The landlord hired the security guards the day after several nearby businesses were vandalized or burglarized when a protest the previous night became violent. Protest organizers have denounced the violence and property damage.

Tenants of the building were not aware the guards would be there, according to management of a salon on the second floor of the building. Staff at Akari posted a note on Facebook supporting the protesters.

“We have no knowledge of the decision to hire these men and we deeply regret the profound impact their presence has made on the members of the community and the souls who were peacefully making their way home. Akari has always embraced the diversity of our Portland community. We stand in solidarity with the fight against racism throughout our nation. Please stay safe while your voices are being heard!”

Allan Labos, who owns the building at 193 Middle St., refused to talk to a Portland Press Herald reporter Friday except to confirm that he regretted placing the armed guards there.

“I’m exhausted,” Labos said. “I’m not giving any more statements. It’s very traumatic for me. Thank you, sorry, good day.”

He said he stood by previous statements, including an apology, that were reported by the Bangor Daily News.

Hamdia Ahmed, a young activist who organized another protest Wednesday, said she heard about the armed guards Tuesday when she was trying to make sure protesters were getting home safely. Teenagers who were trying to get home were afraid to walk past the building, so Ahmed and others provided rides and directed foot traffic around it.

She said the few people who are damaging property are not representative of the movement, and the presence of armed guards adds to a false narrative that black youth are dangerous.

“It escalates the situation where black young people are already feeling unsafe,” she said. “Why make things even harder for them? … There’s so many young kids that are so passionate, and they want to create a change, and they want to be peaceful.”

Ahmed encouraged businesses and building owners to engage with organizers and support their movement. “We are on the front lines trying to create a change for our community, and they should join us,” she said.

Caitrin Monahan of Portland was with Ahmed that night. Monahan said she asked the guards who they were and why they were there. They told her they were there to protect businesses but refused to give more details. She estimated that they redirected 30 young people so they did not have to walk by the guards.

“This was just a huge escalation that I don’t think had to happen, and it’s a trauma that people are going to carry with them,” Monahan, 28, said.

Labos told the Bangor newspaper that he hired a security outfit “on short notice” Tuesday after damage was reported to commercial properties during a charged protest in the area one day earlier.

“In hindsight, I overreacted based on information (we) were getting via news outlets,” Labos said. “I truly apologize to the community for sending out the wrong message. (I) was only trying to protect livelihoods.”

Another protest took place in downtown Portland Friday, but Labos would not talk about security precautions.

Portland Police Lt. Robert Martin told the Press Herald that police were aware there were people armed with rifles during the event but did not know which businesses they were protecting or whether they had been hired by a property owner.

The protest Monday drew an estimated 1,000 people and started peacefully but became violent and destructive in the early morning hours. Police in riot gear arrested 23 people, all but one for failing to disperse. The protest was one of six that have taken place in Portland since May 29 as other, sometimes more violent demonstrations have been held across the country following the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police.

Protests in Portland have mostly been peaceful, although an additional 10 people were arrested Tuesday for failure to disperse after that protest ended.

Staff Writers Megan Gray and Matt Byrne contributed to this article.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: