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Portland Officials Call For Unity After Night Of Protests, 23 Arrests

Willis Ryder Arnold
Maine Public
Demonstrators and Portland Police face off Monday night in downtown Portland.

What began as a large but peaceful protest Monday night in Portland gave way to violent confrontations with police and 23 arrests.

An estimated 1,000 people gathered in front of the Portland Police Department to protest the police killings of unarmed African Americans including George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis while being held on the ground by police.

At about 8:30 p.m., after speakers had finished addressing the gathering in downtown Portland, some protestors left the area.

“There was a group that chose to stay, which was fine, and shortly after that is when some violent acts started to occur,” says Portland police Lt. Robert Martin

Martin says protestors attempted to damage police vehicles positioned at intersections to keep roads closed, and some blocked police cars from leaving the area.

Martin says members of the crowd threw bottles, rocks, bricks and urine at police, none of whom was seriously hurt. Several trash cans were set on fire. He says a store was broken into by a large group just after 9 p.m.

The driver of a tractor-trailer was charged with reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon after driving through a group of protestors gathered in front of the police station. No one was hit by the truck.

“About an hour I guess after that we made our first arrests. We’d been issuing orders to disperse for close to an hour before any arrests were made,” Martin says.

Twenty two of the arrests were for failure to disperse.

Martin says Portland police will do everything they can to make sure protestors can exercise their First Amendment rights, but have to take action in response to violent or criminal acts.

On Tuesday, city leaders have called for unity.

Portland city councilor Spencer Thibodeau says like so many others, he’s angered by Floyd’s death. After several days of protests, he’s hoping that the community will unite to demand better from those in power.

“We can do it in a peaceful and pragmatic way. So my hope, as one African American male, is that they’ll join me in those efforts to create a dialogue where change can happen,” he says.

Portland Mayor Kate Snyder says that will hopefully happen at a planned protest Wednesday night. She says she’s among several city leaders who will join the crowd.

“Along with, I think, the majority of the city council, police chief, city manager and other staff, really to be listening,” she says.

The Portland City Council passed a resolution Monday night denouncing racism.