GORHAM — After a contentious public discussion Tuesday night, the Town Council approved two separate resolutions regarding systemic racism. One includes the words “Black Lives Matter” and the other does not.

Town Clerk Laurie Nordfors said Wednesday both resolutions are now in effect.

The issue appears to have divided the town, Council Chairperson Suzanne Phillips said, and “it’s disheartening to see the divide.”

Opponents of the inclusion of Black Lives Matter said it is a political organization associated with violence. Those in favor of it, including Councilor Virginia Wilder Cross who sponsored that resolution, said it is not in support of any organization but instead is in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Students who organized peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrations in town this summer and other residents drafted and submitted the Black Lives Matter resolution last month. The council then sent the resolution back for revisions mostly having to do with the town “partnering” with the Police Department on “equal justice for all,” although the issue of Black Lives Matter did also arise.

The resolution the group resubmitted Tuesday says in part: “The Gorham Town Council supports all town departments and members of the public to ensure equal justice for all, prevent any form of police misconduct, provide educational opportunities to accept and celebrate diversity and address racial discrimination; and affirms and acknowledges the fact that Black Lives Matter.”

The resolution also commits the town to “addressing any members of its organizations or departments who are affiliated with any hate groups to the extent legally possible.”

The council approved the resolution 6-1, with Councilor Benjamin Hartwell opposed. He said the resolution is divisive and he could not support rioting and violence.

He offered an alternative resolution, one that was approved in Cape Elizabeth, that does not include the words Black Lives Matter.

It says, in part, that the town “welcomes residents of all cultures, celebrates the benefits of a pluralistic society, and respects the right of every person or group to live and practice their self-determined identity, culture, and faith without fear.”

Councilors also approved Hartwell’s resolution 6-1 with Cross opposed.

The votes on the resolutions followed calls during the council’s Zoom meeting from numerous residents, speaking on both sides of the issue. Councilors were flooded with emails about the resolutions, and the number precluded them from being read into the record during the meeting. Town Councilor Jim Hager said he received 50 emails.

But Zoom callers were plentiful and had plenty to say.

Sarah Rimkunas, a 24-year Gorham resident, said she supported the Black Lives Matter resolution because she has seen racism in town.

“I’ve seen a nasty underbelly in Gorham,” Rimkunas said.

Myles Obrey, a Gorham High School graduate and University of Southern Maine student, supported the resolution because it affects his friends.

“Stand with young adults of the future,” Obrey urged town councilors.

Naomi Schucker said the resolution is about human rights and justice. “Gorham Police Department doesn’t have issues with the resolution” including the words Black Lives Matter, she said.

Cory Goodell said police are seldom the problem.

“Black Lives Matter is not a peaceful organization,” Goodell said. “I propose removing the Black Lives Matter language from the resolution.”

The intent of the Black Lives Matter resolution is good, but the wording is “inflammatory,” said Tim Sandeno.  If something is systemic, it should be spelled out and addressed, he said.

Jim Means said Black Lives Matters is a political movement and has a history of violence. Means urged support of Hartwell’s alternative.

“No need to light the fuse,” Means said.

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