A meeting between Black Lives Matter protesters and police dissolved in Portland, Maine, Wednesday, on what was supposed to be a first step in healing, and a major step in resolving criminal charges.
The meeting was one part of a plea agreement the 17 protesters accepted last week.
Protesters were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and obstructing a public way during a march last July.
Last Thursday, all 17 agreed to take part in a restorative justice process, that required them to pay a fine and have a dialogue with Portland Police and the District Attorney’s office. In exchange, charges would be dismissed.
“We want this to be a meaningful discussion,” said Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Ackerman. “We want everyone to be heard.”
Ackerman said her office notified the protesters they wanted to meet in two groups before they accepted the deal. But instead of meeting in smaller groups, all of the protesters showed up at once Wednesday morning, and demanded to be heard all at once, according to Ackerman.
“What we saw was a group that wanted to continue to protest,” said Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck.
The parties left the meeting without coming to an agreement, and the restorative justice process has broken down.
“We were willing to participate, and we sat down in a circle, and they just left,” said protester Shadiyo Hussain. She denied making any demands of the police or DA.
“They were out of the gate demanding, and I have to say very hostile,” said Ackerman, who said the protesters also demanding the director of the Maine NAACP be removed from observing the meeting.
Because the meeting fell through, the District Attorney’s office is in the process of filing a motion to return their criminal charges to the docket.
Ackerman said it’s possible these cases could now go to trial, because the conditions of the restorative justice were not met.