Rally Supports Jena 6, Maine inmates

"Free the Jena 6!" cried demonstrators in Portland's Post Office Park on Thursday afternoon. A group of around 70 people gathered, as part of nationwide demonstrations that day objecting to racially motivated prosecutions in the Louisiana town of Jena. (See here the full story of the six black teenagers expelled from school and charged with attempted murder for beating up a white kid, just a short time after a group of white teens got off scot-free for hanging three nooses from a tree on school grounds.)

Several people spoke, including longtime Maine African-American activist and former legislator Gerry Talbot, and City Councilor Dave Marshall. Marshall detailed three race-related initiatives the city is undertaking, including a day of remembrance for the victims of the Darfur genocide, a project getting local artists to design anti-racist fliers to be distributed in response to occasional racist flyering around the city, and the probability that the city will hire its first department head of color on October 1, when Ed Anderson's nomination to be the city's human-resources director comes to the council.

But quickly talk turned to justice here in Maine, and specifically treatment of inmates in Maine's prison system. The rally, co-hosted by the Portland branch of the NAACP and the fledgling Black Bird Collective, included opportunities for people to sign the Black Bird Collective's petition to get Maine lawmakers to adopt the UN Convention Against Torture (see "Group Seeks to Hold Maine to UN Standard," by Jeff Inglis, August 31).

Among the speakers was Black Bird Collective member Paul McCarrier, who spoke about the Portland Phoenix's two-years-and-running series of articles on conditions at the Maine State Prison, including the most recent installment, about how Maine officials have endangered the life of a man to whom they have credited the saving of many lives, including prison guards (see "Stabbed in the Back," by Lance Tapley, September 14).

McCarrier ended his remarks with a call to action: "Contact [Corrections] Commissioner [Martin] Magnusson. Contact [Maine State Prison] Warden [Jeffrey] Merrill."

Here's how:
Commissioner Martin Magnusson
State House Station 111
Augusta, Maine 04333-0111
Telephone: (207) 287-4360

Warden Jeffrey Merrill
Maine State Prison
807 Cushing Road, Warren ME 04864
Telephone: (207) 273-5300

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