A group of Maine teenagers are organizing a vigil and march in Monument Square on Friday night to mark the killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling — the latest in a long line of black men and women whose lives came to abrupt ends after seemingly routine interactions with police officers.
The organizers say the rally will be a tribute to the dead and a call for the end of the nationwide violence.
“I’m a young black man and realizing that I’m an endangered species when I step out of my home is alarming,” said 17-year-old organizer David Thete, who recently graduated from Portland’s Cheverus High School. “I don’t want this to happen in my country, in my community.”
The vigil and march will begin at 7 pm and are organized by the youth group Kesho Wazo, which is a Swahili phrase that members say means “tomorrow’s ideas.”
Stephie Kayumba, a member and upcoming senior at Freeport’s Pine Tree Academy, said she takes the message of the name to heart and is helping organize the rally because she doesn’t want her younger brothers to have to watch online videos of police officers killing people of color.
Kayumba said her father cried when they watched the gruesome video of Castile together, but that she doesn’t want her little brothers to grow up fearing all police.
“I told them to be careful, but that not all cops are like that,” said the 17-year-old Kayumba. “There’s a cop at my school named Mr. Goodwin and he’s such a good guy.”
The young organizers spoke early Friday morning when relatively little was known about the shooting that killed five police officers and wounded seven others at an until-then peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, Texas. But they emphasized the need to decry all violence.
“We don’t promote any killing in any way,” said Thete. “It doesn’t matter if it’s men in blue or men in black.”