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  April 9, 2017

Black Lives Matter Case in Maine in Limbo

18 Black Lives Matter activists were arrested last July in Portland, Maine, and their case has been on hold ever since the case's judge recused himself
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EDDIE CONWAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Eddie Conway, coming to you from Baltimore.

Recently in Portland, Maine there has been a case that has caught my attention and made the headlines. And because actually, honestly, I was surprised to find that there were Black Lives Matter cases being prosecuted in Maine.

So, joining me today to kind of like give us some insight on what happened up in Portland, Maine; and why it's still going on after this summer -- is Mary-Anna Angelo. She's a student at the University of Southern Maine; and she's also an organizer of the Black Lives Matter movement there; and she is also one of 18 people that got arrested. And the case now is being adjudicated in Court. Mary-Anna, thanks for joining me.

MARY-ANNA ANGELO: Thanks for having me.

EDDIE CONWAY: Can you kind of explain, because I'm honestly... honestly, when Maine popped up, I'm thinking --well, there's no problems up in Maine, in terms of Black Lives Matter. But apparently, there are problems, and there were problems with the judge and problems with the case.

So, explain to us what happened, and what's going on now.

MARY-ANNA ANGELO: So, July 15th, me, and some of the other Black Lives Matter organizers had decided that we really wanted to stand in solidarity with the rest of the protests that were going on that year, and just that summer. And just like you said, like, it's Maine; I mean, no-one really thinks that there could be anything really going on here, just because we're so secluded from the rest of the country; but we do have some serious issues that are going on here.

And we just felt like this was something that we needed to do. We just felt like we really needed to be a voice for the black people, and immigrants, that do live in Portland, Maine. So, we decided to stop traffic. We actually went down into the old Port, which is actually like one of the busiest places in Maine. It has all like, the bars, the restaurants, basically, that's like the most live place. And we basically took over, and we shut it down, and we exercised, you know -- our rights. And we are trying to normalize civil disobedience.

But unfortunately, not everybody thinks the exact same way as us. So, we in turn ended up getting arrested. So, that night 18 people were arrested. One was a minor, so technically it's 17. So, what they actually did is, they broke through a barrier of white allies, to get to me, and two other Black Lives Matters protestors also. So, that's pretty much the gist of that night.

EDDIE CONWAY: Okay, well I understand that the case was being moved to a Restorative Justice adjudication.


EDDIE CONWAY: What happened? Or, why did that happen?

MARY-ANNA ANGELO: So, Restorative Justice was actually part of the conditions for one of our original plea deals. So, it actually took a very, very long time for us to even get to the Restorative Justice process. But finally, once we got there, the condition was, we have to agree to do a Restorative Justice, and we have to pay for it.

We actually have to give money to a charity of our picking, and then we have to plead guilty to a civil disobedience charge. And so, once we actually do the Restorative Justice, the case would actually be put on a shelf, and it would be actually put on a filing. So, what they agreed on is at six months, once we put the case on a filing, once we do the previous conditions, we would be... we would not have any charges on our record whatsoever.

So, that was the agreement. But unfortunately, just like this whole entire case, it didn't really go as planned -- not from anything that we did. We definitely went in with good faith. The problem with the Restorative Justice is, one, it doesn't... it didn't really do anything to restore -- that was the problem. It's like they... a lot of the people that were around putting together Restorative Justice, I don't think really understands the movement of Black Lives Matter.

I don't think they really understood the trials and tribulations just between the police department here, and people of color here. Just because we don't make up such a large population, I think. And it's also; there wasn't really a lot of dialogue between the arrestees, and the people that were holding it. We were unaware that the ADA was going to be there.

Because this is still an open case, we were under the impression that she was not going to be there. We were not notified that she was going to be there. Because that would be us waiving our 5th Amendment right, by us going to a space without any of our lawyers. So, that crumbled very, very quickly.

EDDIE CONWAY: Uh huh. So, apparently that is one of the factors that lead to the judge recusing himself. What actually lead up to that? And what's the status of the case now?

MARY-ANNA ANGELO: All right, so we were going to court to basically figure out, did we actually participate in Restorative Justice, or did we not? So basically, if we didn't, and if we were found guilty, we would go to trial. They were going to restore the case back to docket, and they were going to proceed on the track to go to trial.

But we were on the side saying that we did do it. We showed up with good faith, we showed up ready to do the Restorative Justice. We were unaware of, you know, the third parties that were going to be there. We were unaware of the ADA being there without our lawyers, asking us any questions, because anything in that room could really be used in the case.

And so, that's what we were arguing. Unfortunately, the judge was extremely biased. The entire time that we were there, he was already using language like, "Wait, didn't the paper that you guys sign say per the direction of the DA's office?" Like, he was saying things that would automatically make you assume that he was already on the side of the DA.

And then, he was referring to certain instances, and using certain scenarios, that weren't even in the case. Like, reading articles that had to do around the case, and trying to bring that into the courtroom without actually listening to both sides. And there was, I think, our lawyer, or the lawyer that was representing us at the time, did a really, really good job to actually bring light on the entire situation, and actually really going down every single detail that has actually happened from July 15th to now.

And the judge was looking at that as him being rude, and not being respectful. And so, there was a lot of tension in the room; and so that lead up to him recusing himself.

EDDIE CONWAY: Uh huh, so what's the... Now that he's off the case, what's the status of the case, and what's the status of the 18 that still have to have this resolved?

MARY-ANNA ANGELO: Well, right now we, after that day, they had actually tried to find a judge, I think, right when he recused himself. But obviously Maine's a really small state, so they had just decided that they were going to go try to find a new judge, and then we were going to have another court date.

So, right now we're still going to have to go through the motion again, and figure out did we do Restorative Justice, or did we not? In that courtroom, the judge kept pushing for, "Hey why don't you guys just have a dialogue. You guys should just do another Restorative Justice; and we were like, "No, we have done it. We did it. We were there. We were prepared, and unfortunately the ADA, the DA, and the police chief, were not prepared and did not come in good faith."

And so, now we're in that limbo. Now we have to go back now. It's just round two.

EDDIE CONWAY: Okay, so when are you expecting to know something about the next step?

MARY-ANNA ANGELO: We should know something within the next, I think, two weeks, but unfortunately, like, we... this case has been going on since July.


MARY-ANNA ANGELO: So, everything has been going on very, very, very slow, so I don't bank on this... anybody really telling us anything for the next two weeks; because now the gamble is -- now you're going to have to find a judge that actually wants to deal with this.

EDDIE CONWAY: Okay, well can you let me know as soon as you know, and maybe we can talk about what the status is? Are you getting support from the National Black Lives Matter movement?

MARY-ANNA ANGELO: Yeah, definitely, like, we have a lot of people that from around us, especially around Boston, like, around that area, like, a lot of people have been reaching out. Even Oakland, have been, like, tweeting and being like, "Hey if you guys need anything, like, we stand in solidarity with you guys."

Just even people who probably aren't even a part of the organization, just people who are just watching, you know, just like wow, we're really shocked. I mean, a lot of people didn't even know there were black people in Maine.

EDDIE CONWAY: Yeah, yes.

MARY-ANNA ANGELO: So, that was a one-up for us, like, people didn't even know we were here.

EDDIE CONWAY: Okay, so let me know. Keep me informed, and we will revisit this, because I think it's important not to let it go without some attention. Okay?

MARY-ANNA ANGELO: Yeah, definitely, definitely.

EDDIE CONWAY: Okay, thanks for joining me.

MARY-ANNA ANGELO: You're welcome. You guys have a great day.

EDDIE CONWAY: Okay. And thank you for joining The Real News.




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