Compassionate Community Campaign
Nancy Markowitz, in conjunction with folks from CC have formed a Compassionate City/Campaign. Paul Revier, Sister Pat Pora, Lori Whittemore, Pat Bartke and Rich Stillman shared soup in early December to discuss how to move Portland from being a signer of the Charter for Compassion to embracing the principles of being a Compassionate City/Community.
Portland answers call for peaceful vigil to honor Michael Brown
By Darren Fishell, BDN Staff
Posted Nov. 25, 2014, at 7:56 p.m.
PORTLAND, Maine — Answering a call for peaceful vigils in response to a grand jury’s decision not to indict the white police officer who in August fatally shot the unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, hundreds gathered on Tuesday night in Monument Square.
With speeches punctuated by song, a moment of silence and people shaking hands in signs of peace, Rachel Talbot Ross, president of the Portland chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the event intended to honor Brown’s memory and demonstrate sympathy to his family from Maine.
“We gather here today to honor their wishes by gathering to remember the life of their dear child, Michael Brown, and the countless others who have been tragically lost in this manner, and to express without excuse the need for a fair and transparent justice system,” said Talbot Ross, who was swarmed by attendees after the event, offering hugs and support.
The Tuesday gathering came as Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon ordered deployment of 2,200 National Guard troops in response to riots in Ferguson, Missouri, where 28-year-old police Officer Darren Wilson shot Brown in an altercation in August, for which there are conflicting eyewitness accounts.
Speeches in Portland were a mix of somber and resolute, with a call from the Rev. Kenneth Lewis to commit to changing a criminal justice system that disproportionately arrests, kills and convicts people of color.
“I’m dissatisfied with the premature death of brown and black men,” Lewis said. “I’m dissatisfied with lights that go on for a vigil but go off when we get home. I’m dissatisfied that our engagement does not match the scale of our enragement.”
Speakers from the faith community and a workers’ rights group also were joined by Portland Mayor Michael Brennan and Police Chief Michael Sauschuck, who in September said that black people are underrepresented on the city’s police force and overrepresented in arrests.
Sauschuck shared those statistics at the second in a series of discussions also organized by the local NAACP in response to the police shooting in Ferguson. Sauschuck did not address the crowd Tuesday, but Brennan said it was a time for the city to again take up the issue of gun violence and the goals of the Charter of Compassion, which the city signed this year.
Drew Joy, chairman of the board of directors of the workers’ rights group the Southern Maine Workers’ Center and a white man, said that it is important for white people to take up a call for equal justice.
Lewis echoed the sentiment, saying that it will take a majority of people to make progress on that issue. He urged lasting action beyond Tuesday’s vigil and made the specific recommendation that all people register to vote.
“Otherwise, you won’t be a jury pool,” he said.
Lewis did not comment directly about the makeup of the jury in Ferguson, but it was an issue for protestors and observers in that case, where nine jurors were white and three were black. Nine votes were needed to indict Wilson, though the vote tally is kept secret through the grand jury process.
Alyssa Lewis, Kenneth Lewis’ daughter and a USM student, said she was unsurprised but hurt by the grand jury’s decision Monday evening.
“It opens a new wound from the Trayvon Martin case,” Alyssa Lewis said, referring to the February 2012 shooting of another unarmed black teenager by neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman, who was acquitted after a trial that drew national attention.
In her opening remarks, Talbot Ross said she was encouraged by the number of young people in the audience.
“To the young everywhere who are standing up for justice: you, our young men, our young women, you are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” Talbot Ross said. “You will be the positive catalyst for the changes that must take place to end the insidious system of racism.”
Source: BDN MAINE