State Senator David Miramant
State Senator David Miramant
The killing of George Floyd and other people of color at the hands of police has sparked a series of protests across Maine, the nation, and the world over the past few weeks. On June 3, I joined one such protest on the Camden Village Green to condemn George Floyd’s murder and to call for an end to racism and the use of excessive force by police. You can watch my remarks on my Facebook page.

For many Americans, this movement has been eye-opening in understanding the discrimination faced by people of color, and in particular the experiences of Black people in this country. To be clear, these issues exist in every state and every community. As a state senator, I had an education in what Mainers of color face when several folks came forward to ask me to advocate for allowing a higher tint on car windows. They were acting on their knowledge about what can happen to an innocent Black person at the hands of police, and in their experience they got pulled over less when police couldn’t identify their race through tinted windows. This is something I had the privilege of never thinking about before, and I’m guessing many of my constituents haven’t either.

It is a fact that police are more likely to use deadly force against people of color than they are against white people. While we can hope that in the whitest state in the nation police bias and brutality won’t affect us, the fact is that it does. There is evidence to show that race impacts policing in Maine; reporting from the Portland Press Herald in the past week details how the Portland Police Department makes arrests and uses force against Black people at a higher rate than white people. But the militarization of police and the lack of accountability they face legally — both criminally and civilly — make life more dangerous for all Mainers.

In 2007, 18-year-old Gregori Jackson was killed by a police officer in Waldoboro. The Office of the Attorney General, which reviews all police killings, declined to press murder charges against the police officer; in fact, in the four decades that the Attorney General’s Office has reviewed police shootings, there has never been action taken against an officer. Gregori was shot in the back and in the back of his head, and to me and many others, the evidence does not comport with the police officer’s claim that he had to use deadly force in self-defense.

Gregori’s family, District Attorney Natasha Irving, myself and other lawmakers believe Gregori’s case was a miscarriage of justice and the consequence of a broken system. Last year, DA Irving asked the current attorney general to reinvestigate this case. But with no charges brought forward by that office, Irving has now announced her intention to file murder charges herself. On June 11, I joined her at a press conference in Augusta to support this intention.

Our police force now resembles an arm of the military, but that should not and cannot be the role of police in our society. When this over-armed force isn’t held to account, people are going to suffer. When this unaccountable force exists in a racist society like ours, people of color are going to suffer disproportionately.

When I protested on the Village Green on June 3, there were police officers in attendance who knelt with me and my fellow protestors. I’m hopeful that the care and respect we have for each other in this community means we are well-equipped to tackle systemic injustices and to right the wrongs of cases like Gregori Jackson’s. But this won’t happen without some hard work and some deep introspection about the divisiveness and the fear of difference all of us hold in our hearts. I am willing to do this work because I believe that Black lives matter, and I hope you’ll join me in working to reform our policing so that we can all enjoy a safer society.