Updated: No more prosecution or restorative justice for Portland Black Lives Matter group

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PORTLAND — Criminal prosecution will not be renewed against 17 protesters arrested in a Commercial Street demonstration last year in support of Black Lives Matter.

Neither will the defendants be asked to take part in a restorative justice program that was part of a plea agreement to allow criminal charges to be dismissed. All criminal charges will be dismissed July 26.

“We have seen nothing from the Black Lives Matter demonstrators that suggests they actually want to have a conversation,” Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson told TV stations Wednesday, after a motion to restore criminal charges to the Cumberland County Unified Criminal Docket was denied.

In a six-page decision, Cumberland County Superior Court Justice Lance Walker ruled Anderson’s decision to terminate a Feb. 1 restorative justice meeting with the defendants, who were arrested July 15, 2016, did not mean the defendants violated the terms of the agreement.

“The State agreed to have the Defendants participate in a restorative justice meeting and it has an obligation to try and make it work,” Walker said.

His decision came after a six-hour hearing May 19 in Portland. Walker also ruled the terms of the plea agreement for the restorative justice meeting were still in effect.

“It was a well-reasoned decision, it made sense and we accept this decision,” Anderson said.

She doubted protesters had real concerns about the city and Police Department, but still welcomed the opportunity to hear them.

“I don’t feel they have fulfilled the terms of restorative justice at all,” Anderson said, adding she felt protesters “abused” police at the demonstration.

Karen Lane, of Auburn; Lelia Saad, of South Portland; and Idman Abdulkadir, Mariana Angelo, Alba Briggs, Sable Knapp, Kennedy Johnson, Caitlin Vaughan, Salma Hassan, Sarah Lazare, Nasreen Sheikyousef, Kennedy Barteaux, Shadiyo Hussain-Ali, Llewellyn Pinkerton, Leah Kravette, Benny Vanderburgh, and Jenessa Hayden, all of Portland, were arrested July 15, 2016, after blocking Commercial Street near Pearl Street for three hours.

All were charged with obstructing a public way and failure to disperse. Abdulkadir, Ali, Angelo, Briggs, Hassan, Lazare and Sheikyousef faced additional charges, including obstructing government administration and disorderly conduct.

“I think (Walker’s) decision makes a lot of sense. However, we felt the defendants’ decision to comply with requirements to engage in restorative justice had been met,” Attorney Jon Gale, who defended Lane, said Wednesday.

Gale also helped craft the plea agreement to include the Portland Center for Restorative Justice, beginning in December 2016. Defendants pleaded guilty to a civil charge of disorderly conduct, paid $200, and the criminal charges were to be dropped after six months.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Activists protesting in support of Black Lives Matter block the intersection of Pearl and Commercial streets in Portland’s Old Port on Friday evening, July 15, 2016. Eighteen protesters were eventually arrested.

Attorney Jon Gale testifies May 19 in Portland. He said May 24 that defendants had met conditions to complete a plea agreement for the July 15, 2016, arrests of demonstrators supporting Black Lives Matter.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.