More than 200 people gathered Saturday afternoon in Portland to protest police brutality and systemic racism, just days after a Kentucky grand jury decided not to hand up murder indictments for the three Louisville police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor in March.

The Black Lives Matter Maine demonstration moved between the Portland Police Department headquarters and City Hall, snaking through the Old Port and marching down Congress Street.

At one point, the protestors staged a sit-in at the intersection of Franklin and Middle streets, near the police station. They spread across four lanes of traffic, chanting along with trumpets and drums.

“This is called civil disobedience,” activist Hamdia Ahmed shouted. “Are we rioting?”

“No,” the crowd yelled back.

The sit-in was part of the hourslong peaceful demonstration. Diners, shoppers and walkers stopped to watch them pass by. Some raised their fists in solidarity.


“Whose streets?” the crowd chanted. “Our streets.”

On the steps of both city buildings, young Black people took the megaphone to call for change.

“Justice for Breonna Taylor is us,” Josh Wood told the crowd. “We are the people. We have the power to change things in Portland, Maine, and everywhere.”

In the hours before the protest, the organizers traded criticisms with the Portland Police Department on social media.

On Friday night, Police Chief Frank Clark shared a statement that faulted the organizers for failing to work with his department or return its calls. Black Lives Matter quickly responded with a statement that said the organizers had reached out to the police in preparation for the event and accused the police chief of trying to discredit the movement.

The police department shared an update Saturday, saying the organizers agreed to start the protest at the police station and then move to Portland City Hall.


“We’re continuing to ask for calm from all of today’s protesters and counterprotesters,” the department’s Facebook post said. “Help us, help you as we work to protect each of you and your right to peacefully and lawfully protest.”

But the group met a small number of agitators near City Hall, and organizers decided to move the protest away from them.

“There may be counterprotestors here, but what are we here for?” Ayanna Pappas said as she walked through the crowd with a megaphone, calling people away from the small group on a nearby corner. “To spread the message.”

They returned to the police station, first taking a knee and then sitting as speakers shared their own experiences with the police. When the sky was dark, they again marched into the Old Port. Dozens of people kneeled on Commercial Street, shouting one name over and over.

“Breonna Taylor,” they yelled. “Breonna Taylor.”

The protest ended back at City Hall, where the remaining people sang “Lean on Me” together shortly after 8 p.m. As the crowd dispersed, glowing messages flashed across the building’s face.

“Black Lives Matter,” the words read, and then, “Say their names.”

Comments are not available on this story.