ME march for racial justice draws visitors from across state

The Maine March for Racial Justice, which was organized by three Colby students, Adrienne Carmack ’18, Marcques Houston ’18, and Angie Peterson ’18, began outside Colby’s Pugh Center and moved into downtown Waterville on Sunday, Oct. 1. Carmack, Houston, and Peterson began planning the event in August, but said that the most intensive parts of organizing the march took place over the past few weeks. Planning consisted mostly of “just a lot of outreach to get people to speak, and to facilitate and come to our educational workshops,” said Peterson. The march in Waterville was a sister march of a larger national March for Racial Justice in Washington, D.C. “[The organizers of the march in Washington] have been very helpful,” Houston said. “I’ve talked on the phone a few times…and they sent us resources, like how to do press releases, how to be active on social media…and they sent us a video on protest rights, so they’ve been very good about helping us out in any way they can.” The march in Washington occurred on Saturday, Sept. 31.

Carmack, Houston, and Peterson elected to hold the march in Waterville a day after the national march due to Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday that took place on Friday and Saturday. “We didn’t want to have it on a Jewish holiday, so we decided to have it on Sunday instead, just to be more inclusive,” Peterson explained. On Aug 15, the national march released a statement apologizing for its “grave and hurtful” oversight of scheduling the event on Yom Kippur, but was unable to change the date as it had already acquired permits.

The event’s organizers enlisted the help of several volunteers, who congregated at the Pugh Center at 11 a.m. on Sunday. Volunteers signed up for their roles through an online form that was posted in the event’s Facebook page, and were asked to help set up for the march, to enforce safety standards, particularly in regards to crossing streets safely, to assist in leading chants, and to help clean up after the march.

Beginning at 12 p.m., approximately 300 protesters made their way off campus from the Pugh Center and marched towards downtown Waterville, holding signs while and performing call and response chants. The crowd consisted mostly of Colby students, but also included students from other Maine colleges, and residents of the state. “We tried to get as many people from Maine involved as possible, because opportunities like this don’t arise in Maine very often,” Houston explained.

Erica Arthur, a resident of North Yarmouth, Maine, stated said that she made the hour-long commute to par ticipate in the march because “it’s important for me to show up to events where I get to feel the power of being in a group of people who have similar views to me, and to just be reminded of the power of people who come together.” Katie Moler, a resident of Harpswell, Maine, faced a similar travel time, and said, “I feel like it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the different things that are going on in the world right now that need our responses, and that the first step for me to feel like I can get involved is to come together and see that other people are outraged by the racism and violence that’s all around us in this country.” Katherine Salazar, a Bates College student who drove to Colby with a group of students, said that she attended the march because she “felt like it was really important and wanted to show her support to everybody here.”

The marchers arrived at Waterville’s city hall at 1 p.m., where five speakers, including Rabbi Rachel Isaacs, Ben Chin, a candidate for mayor of Lewiston, Maine, and Colby student Marnay Avant ‘18, addressed the crowd. After the speakers concluded their remarks, educational workshops were held outside of City Hall beginning at 2 p.m..

Overall, the march was viewed as a success by most everyone involved. “The turnout says it all,” Houston said. “The people chanting their hearts out. The people who were so inspired by our demonstration that they joined as we walked by. They might not realize it now, but those who participated in something that could go down as one of the more significant events to have happened in Colby, Waterville, and the State of Maine’s history.” The march was covered by several local news organizations, including WABI-TV, WCSH6, and www.centralmaine.com.