Ahmed Beshir, center, leads a die-in: “We get to get back up … for (George Floyd) that was the last time.” Emily Bader / Lakes Region Weekly

WINDHAM — More than 60 people Thursday participated in a peaceful protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and against the police brutality that killed George Floyd, a Black man killed in police custody in Minneapolis in May.

“We both just felt called to use our voices for better, especially in the tumultuous world that we’re in now,” said Celine Baker, 20, who organized the event with Zach DeFosse, 21. “We felt like even though some people think that Windham or the Lake Region community doesn’t experience racism because we’re not in Portland, we’re not a small metropolitan city, it’s still very much in Windham and in all these surrounding communities. We felt like something had to be done,” Baker said.

Despite intimidating comments on DeFosse’s post on a Windham community Facebook group, there were no signs of counter-protesters and the march remained peaceful.

The protesters, wearing masks and dressed in black, marched from the high school about half mile down the road to the police station, saying “hands up, don’t shoot,” and “no justice, no peace,” among chants. They were escorted by police, who had blocked off portions of Gray Road.

At the police station, several people spoke, including Abdi Nor Iftin, whose memoir “Call Me American” was published in 2018. His memoir describes his journey from living in Somalia in the midst of the civil war to his time in a refugee camp in Kenya and to, finally, arriving in the United States and living with a family in Yarmouth.

On Aug. 9, 2014, “the same day that I landed in the country that I had dreamed (of) since I was 7,” a white police officer murdered a young Black man named Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

“My dreams were betrayed,” Iftin said at the protest.

Ahmed Beshir, 22, attended the protest with his sister, Mariam, 18. The Sudanese-born Beshirs arrived in the States by way of Saudi Arabia in 2009. A few years after living in Philadelphia, they moved to Maine, where Beshir said he suddenly became the only Black kid in his community.

For him, he said, the protest is “not about the people who are here today. It’s about the people who are not here today.”

Windham Police Chief Kevin Schofield said Friday morning that the protest was “a good example of communicating the message and a good community event.”

The Windham Police Department has 29 sworn officers and have a union contract with the Maine Association of Police. This contract determines how policy development is implemented, Schofield said.

Asked how the department is taking action, Schofield directed citizens to tune into a community forum Tuesday night for a presentation on the department, which will be followed by a Q&A session. Information on the Zoom meeting can be found on the department’s Facebook page or by clicking here.

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