Police say fireworks were launched at officers in Kennedy Park on Wednesday night. In 2022, a 35-year-old Portland man was shot near Kennedy Park during Fourth of July celebrations. While police responded to the scene, a hostile crowd formed and shot fireworks toward them. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Portland police arrested eight people near Kennedy Park Wednesday night after officers spent more than an hour dodging fireworks.

Police arrived on the scene at around 10:35 p.m. after receiving reports of a group setting off fireworks and hitting passing cars, according to a statement from Interim Police Chief Robert Martin. After members of the group began launching projectiles at officers, they “were forced to deploy pepper balls to prevent from being attacked.”

“I am proud of the work done by our officers,” Martin said. “They have been subjected to attacks like these over the past few years during the Fourth of July celebrations and it is unacceptable. These fireworks have the potential to cause serious injury and death and we are again fortunate that no civilians or officers were injured.”

Three people, ages 21 to 18, were charged with misdemeanor-level crimes of obstructing government administration, failure to disperse and refusal to submit to arrest.

And five teenage boys ranging from 14 to 17 years old were charged with refusing to submit to arrest.



Wednesday’s melee marked at least the fourth straight year that police faced attacks from fireworks in Kennedy Park around the Fourth of July.

In July 2020, former Police Chief Frank Clark attributed a string of similar incidents to a national climate of hostility toward law enforcement in the wake of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

“Coming at a time when our police officers and others around the country are being broadly and directly vilified, based upon the actions of a few, (it) makes it that much more concerning and demoralizing here for our department,” Clark told the media that summer after fireworks damaged several police cruisers and someone fired gunshots into the department’s parking garage.

But even as social unrest has cooled, the attacks have continued to occur on Fourth of July in East Bayside.

In both 2021 and 2022, officers responded to calls of gunshots and illegal fireworks in the area. When they arrived, they found hundreds of people gathered across several blocks near the Kennedy Park basketball courts. Police said the crowds became agitated when officers tried to clear the area and began targeting them with projectile fireworks like roman candles.

The chaos last year made it difficult to aid a 35-year-old Portland man who was shot and assaulted in the crowd, police said.


While fireworks have been legal in Maine since 2012, Portland is one of many communities that continues to outlaw their sale and use, which carries a fine of $200 or more.


Officers were more prepared to quickly respond to complaints at Kennedy Park this year, Martin said.

Soon after receiving reports of crowds firing fireworks at passing cars, some 20 officers, some of whom had been stationed at the Eastern Promenade fireworks show, arrived to help clear the scene, he said.

Police said they fired the pepper balls – nonlethal, plastic projectiles that contain a power that irritates the eyes and lungs if inhaled – at the walls and ground in order to spread the irritant and disperse the crowd.

After more than an hour, the crowd began to disperse and police made several arrests – a change in course from previous years.

“In the past we lacked resources and would delay enforcement action until we had resources in place,” Martin said. “Each year we learn from the previous years.”

Martin said the department will review the incident in order to be better prepared for next year.

Representatives from the East Bayside Neighborhood Organization did not respond to emails and voicemails Thursday asking whether community leaders are taking steps to address the pattern.

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