‘Our intent was not to get arrested’

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Make sure to tune in to a roundtable on race relations in Portland hosted by our media partner, WGME.

It starts at 7 pm (right now!) We’re streaming it live here.

What we’re talking about

A Portland Racial Justice Congress founder said that the 18 arrests during last Friday’s protest advanced the group’s goal of drawing attention to police violence against people of color nationally.

But Edward Burrage also told BDN Portland that group members were not looking to be arrested during the demonstration, which blocked traffic at one of the city’s busiest intersections to mark the deaths of two black men who were shot by police earlier this month.

“Our intent was not to get arrested,” said Burrage, adding that members were aware of the possibility going in. “But it’s made this a much larger conversation and more far reaching … and of course there are people who are going to say we broke the law, which to some extent is true.”

It may not have been the group’s intent, but being arrested to draw attention to injustice is a time-honored tactic in American political life. It dates date back to actions like the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and even further to 1846 when Henry David Thoreau was jailed for refusing to pay his taxes in protest of slavery, an experience that led him to pen the foundational essay on peaceful resistance. “Civil Disobedience.”

Burrage, who was out of town during the demonstration, also struck a more conciliatory note toward the Portland Police Department than group members at the rally had.

“We’re glad that the police seemed receptive and said that ‘black lives do matter,’” he said, adding that the group would continue to demand public attention to systemic racism and keep pushing for Portland police to adopt body cameras. — Jake Bleiberg

ICYMI

Here’s some more background on the leader of the less high-profile rally last week — David Thete led a rally in memory of the recent victims of police violence last week.

The Press Herald’s Matt Byrne writes: “The cooperative nature of Thete’s march contrasted with another protest held a week later, last Friday, by another group, the Portland Racial Justice Congress. Members of the group took to the streets to protest incidents of police brutality without first giving notice to police or city officials. They stood arm-in-arm across Commercial Street in the Old Port for hours until police arrested 18 people for blocking traffic.

“The July 8 event was a coming-of-age moment for Thete, who graduated from Cheverus High School in June. Since he was a pre-teen, Thete thought basketball would be the key to his future. But after failing to make the starting lineup and spending most games on the bench, Thete re-evaluated his priorities. He started [his group] Kesho Wazo because he was frustrated that he was not living the values of public service that his family instilled in him.”

DOUBLE ICYMI: For more context on policing and Portland’s changing demographics, check out Jake’s story from last week.

Commercial Street’s Love Locks fence is coming down— Sam Shepherd reports:

For three years, couples have been using padlocks to symbolize their love and locking them to a section of fence overlooking Portland Harbor on Commercial Street. Now, seen as a safety hazard, Portland officials will be replacing it.

In the last two weeks, according to Christopher Branch, the director of Portland Public Works, a portion of the chainlink fence separated from the metal support beams. Public works officials used clamps as a temporary fix to reattach it along with a barrier and caution tape.

Branch also said that a new fence has been ordered, and the fence will be built while the current one is being torn down.

he fence separates foot traffic on the sidewalk from a sewage and stormwater outflow into the harbor. There are between 5,400 and 6,000 locks on the fence, according to our decidedly unofficial estimates.

Portland spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said that only the gate of the fence, locks included, will be preserved.

Ethics panel fines Diane Russell $500 after email list complaint — Mike Shepherd reports: “A state ethics panel fined an outgoing legislator’s campaign $500 on Wednesday, but effectively cleared her of more serious allegations around a huge email list that she used to raise a massive sum for a failed Maine Senate primary.

“The hearing before the Maine Ethics Commission centered on the value and ownership of an email list with more than 140,000 names that Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, used to raise $89,000 as of late May, which is perhaps the largest haul ever in a legislative primary here.

“But the issue reflects the intricacies of what Commissioner Richard Nass called a ‘gigantic’ campaign against Rep. Ben Chipman, D-Portland, who beat Russell in a hotly contested and controversial June primary.”

Vacation around the US without leaving Maine — I liked Dispatch’s vacation guide for Mainers, which is based on the premise that the state has its own versions of popular vacation spots around the country. For instance, OOB is the Jersey Shore; Rangeley is Lake Tahoe.

Big ideas

Behind the scenes of Trump’s running mate pick — Robert Draper writes in the New York Times Magazine: “One day this past May, Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., reached out to a senior adviser to Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who left the presidential race just a few weeks before. As a candidate, Kasich declared in March that Trump was “really not prepared to be president of the United States,” and the following month he took the highly unusual step of coordinating with his rival Senator Ted Cruz in an effort to deny Trump the nomination. But according to the Kasich adviser (who spoke only under the condition that he not be named), Donald Jr. wanted to make him an offer nonetheless: Did he have any interest in being the most powerful vice president in history?

“When Kasich’s adviser asked how this would be the case, Donald Jr. explained that his father’s vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.

“Then what, the adviser asked, would Trump be in charge of?

“‘Making America great again’ was the casual reply.”

With that in mind, here’s the case for just making Trump America’s first kingVox’s Timothy B. Lee read that exchange and came to the conclusion that Trump doesn’t actually want the responsibilities of the president.

Evidently, Trump is interested in the prestige and public attention that comes with the presidency. But he doesn’t want to spend a lot of time worrying about niggling policy issues like Brexit or corporate tax reform.

While the idea of a president with no power sounds crazy to American ears, it’s actually how a lot of advanced democracies work around the world. Many countries have a ceremonial figurehead — either an elected president or a hereditary monarch — who represents the nation at state dinners and ribbon-cutting ceremonies. And they also have a head of government, usually the prime minister, who makes all the important policy decisions.

In the United States, we’ve combined these roles into a single person, and it hasn’t been working very well. It’s made the presidency an impossibly demanding job, while giving our head of government a degree of prestige that makes it harder to hold him accountable for his policy mistakes.

So here’s a modest proposal: Let’s make Donald Trump king of the United States. This seems to be the job he actually wants. And replacing America’s powerful elected president with a powerless hereditary monarchy would improve the American political system.


 

Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@bangordailynews.com, or tweet @dsmacleod.

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Dan MacLeod

About Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the editor of BDN Portland. He's an Orland native who first moved to Portland in 2002. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.