Event has been postponed to July 18
CONWAY — A trio of teens is organizing a Black Lives Matter protest for Saturday in North Conway. It would be the sixth such protest to take place in the valley this year.
The trio consists of Maeve Jackson, 13, and her sister Grace Steadman, 15, both of Denmark, Maine, and their friend Maggie Peirce, 15, of Fryeburg, Maine.
The protest they are planning, which would include holding signs and chanting, would be held from 2-6 p.m. at Schouler Park in front of the train station in North Conway Village.'
The protest they are planning, which would include holding signs and chanting, would be held from 2-6 p.m. at Schouler Park in front of the train station in North Conway Village.
Protests were held across the nation in the wake of the May 25 death of African-American man George Floyd, which occurred while he was in the custody of Minneapolis police officers.
Steadman described the protest as being “about police brutality against Black lives and all the Black people who have been murdered.”
Jackson said she was inspired to plan the protest by her 29-year old sister who now lives on the West Coast and organizes protests out there.
“We are going to gather in the park and like the other ones, we are going to stand by the road with our signs,” Jackson said. Peirce added the event would be “peaceful.”
Steadman said they have written a sheet of facts to be distributed at the protest. For instance, it says, “The police killed 1,099 people in 2019. 24% of the victims were black, while only 13% of the U.S. population is black.”
Jackson said protests are necessary until reforms are made. She said some funding for police should be redirected to education and for police training to “learn how to be anti-racist.”
She said the reason they chose Schouler Park as the site is because “more people will see us, and it is the best place to gather because there really isn’t a good place in Fryeburg. Also, every protest I’ve been to around here was in the park, so we know that it’s a place people can get to.”
Steadman believes that if poor communities reallocated money that would ordinarily go to police, that might reduce crime.
“It’s an issue everywhere,” said Jackson, who is calling for Fryeburg residents on July 14 to vote down the police budget.
Article 4 on Fryeburg’s ballot calls for spending $658,660 in the “law enforcement account.” This year’s proposed police budget is $19,500 more than last year.
According to selectmen’s chair Tom Klinepeter, if a town budget ballot question is defeated, last year’s budget would go into effect until a special meeting can be held.
“As for a teenager wanting to have the police department defunded, in today’s national climate, this does not surprise me,“ said Klinepeter.
In June, Fryeburg Police Lt. Mike McAllister took questions about racial issues and policing during a selectmen’s meeting.
Selectman Tom Kingsbury asked about use of force.
“My officers are well-aware of the use-of-force continuum,” said McAllister. “The officers know what is and isn’t acceptable, and I don’t see that as an issue.”
Kingsbury asked about racial profiling, saying Fryeburg Academy has students from many different ethnic backgrounds.
“I think ongoing, we will continue talks like that, but you know, in my years here, I’ve never seen any kind of racial profiling in our police department,” said McAllister, who has been acting chief since Joshua Potvin was put on administrative leave in May due to undisclosed circumstances.
During public comments, resident Nora Schwarz said she appreciated McAllister’s remarks.
“I think that these are conversations that are long overdue,” said Schwars.
Resident Greg Huang-Dale, who teaches at the academy, said he was glad town officials are discussing policing issues. “I think the police have done a great job at being present in our community and visible,” said Huang-Dale. “At the academy, of course, as Tom mentioned, we do have kids of students of color and some teachers of color, too. And I think that it’s good to make them feel welcome in our community.”
Other recent protests in the area included the so-called “Floating 4th of July” organized by a group called Eaton’s LOVE (League of Voters for Equality) that took place on Crystal Lake last Saturday.
A demonstration at the Four Corners in Conway Village on May 31 drew about 200 people. A second brought about 500 people to Schouler Park and along Route 16 in North Conway Village on June 8.
A June 14 march saw about 100 people walking with signs from Settlers Green to Schouler Park.
Then a rolling protest that had attendees riding bikes and skateboards on Route 16 in North Conway Village took place June 21.