BANGOR – Protesters filled the streets of downtown Bangor Monday pushing for change, a week after a black man was killed in police custody in Minnesota.
Those at the peaceful protest said the time to act is now.
“We need to make sure that every single member of our community breathes,” said Bangor City Councilor Angela Okafor.
Protesters holding signs with phrases like “Black Lives Matter,” “I Can’t Breathe” and “No Justice, No Peace,” met outside the Bangor Public Library, demanding justice.
The gathering follows the death of George Floyd, who was killed when a police officer kneeled on his neck in Minnesota for nearly nine minutes, an event that has sparked outrage nationwide.
“We can no longer choose to be non-active,” one speaker at the protest said. “We are liable to be active participants in our healing from this disease called racism that has spread across the world.”
Bangor’s city council chair said as the whitest state in the country, Maine has to work toward change.
“This is a majority white community. There are absolutely wonderful people here, no question,” said City Council Chair Clare Davitt.
“But that doesn’t mean you’re not necessarily racist. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have things internalized that you need to work on,” Davitt continued. “Absolutely, myself included.”
Protesters then marched from the library through the streets of downtown to the Bangor Police Department, urging for police accountability.
In a statement released earlier Monday, Bangor Police Chief Mark Hathaway and the President of the Greater Bangor Branch of the NAACP, Michael Alpert, condemned the “horrific” actions that led to Floyd’s death.
The statement went on to say while the “shocking” actions of Minnesota’s officers don’t reflect all police, they erode trust and confidence in police in general.
The statement said biased policing in Bangor is “not permitted. Period.” It also said the two organizations are committed to the goal of social justice.
At Monday evening’s event in front of the department, Bangor police officers could be seen kneeling with protesters.
Even with the strong showing of support at the peaceful protest, some say this is just the first step.
“We appreciate you standing with us, but we want you to understand that November is coming,” Okafor said, greeted with cheers from the crowd. “You need to stand up and vote. It is not enough to just come and protest and that is the end of it. We need to vote … like George Floyd is our brother.
“You vote like your life depends on it. That is the only way things can change,” Okafor said.