Portland Black Lives Matter protesters near plea agreement

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PORTLAND — The 17 adults arrested July 15, 2016 during a protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement may soon reach a plea agreement with the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office.

Attorney Jon Gale said Dec. 28 he and the other attorneys representing those arrested rejected an unspecified offer made by prosecutors in a settlement conference Dec. 6, but he was confident the cases could be settled shortly.

The defendants were scheduled to go to trial Jan. 9 on charges of Class E obstructing a public way, and failure to disperse, and Class D obstructing government administration. One juvenile was also arrested and is not part of the potential plea agreement.

Idman Abdul, 22; Alba Briggs, 26; Mariana Angelo, 20; Sable Knapp, 26; Kennedy Johnson, 22; Caitlin Vaughan, 29; Sarah Lazar, 32; Nasreen Sheikyousef, 25; Kennedy Bateaux, 38; Shadiyo Hussain-Ali, 23; Llewellyn Pinkerton, 21; Leah Kravett, 25; Barbara Van Derburgh, 22; and Jenessa Hayden, 23, all of Portland; Karen Lane, 50, of Auburn and Lelia Saad, 24, of South Portland, were arrested with the unidentified 16-year-old.

Court records indicate defense attorneys had until Dec. 27 to accept the prosecution’s offer, and trial dates have been pushed back to the middle of next month. The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges last August.

The arrests came around 10:30 p.m. on Commercial Street, between Franklin and Pearl, after protesters organized by the Portland Racial Justice Congress marched from Lincoln Park and formed a circle in the center of Commercial Street around 7:30 p.m.

The Portland Racial Justice Congress had demanded Police Chief Michael Sauschuck speak out against police shootings in other cities, create a more transparent department and outfit his officers with body cameras.

“We ask him to affirm that black and brown lives matter and that his department is committed to creating trusting relationships with the people of color in the neighborhoods they police,” Abdul wrote in a press release before the demonstration.

Mayor Ethan Strimling and City Manager Jon Jennings defended Sauschuck and the police following the arrests.

“As they do day in and day out, our law enforcement personnel performed with professionalism and empathy,” Strimling said.

Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce later apologized because two women arrested were photographed at Cumberland County Jail without their hijabs and the photos were publicly released.

Joyce said the women were required per jail procedure to remove the traditional Muslim covering of the head and neck that is worn to preserve modesty, but the photos should not have been sent to media outlets.

“I offer my sincerest apologies to any of the individuals who were at all embarrassed that evening, and to the Muslim community for the appearance that we were disrespecting their religious beliefs and practices,” Joyce said.

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

Protesters gather on Commercial Street on July 15, 2016, during a rally in support of Black Lives Matter. A plea agreement may be reached soon for the 17 adults arrested, according to an attorney.

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.