By Carol McCracken (Post # 298)
On the steps of city hall yesterday afternoon leaders of the Sudanese community in Portland called upon public officials for answers to two unsolved murders of members of their community. “This has been a difficult and trying year for Portland’s Sudanese Community,” said Sarah Espich, acting chair, Sudanese Community Assocation, Portland Nyalingwa@netzero.com. Members of the community believe that the police department has not done enough to investigate the murders of the two who died.
Public officials listened to their pleas for justice, peace and answers. Councilor Dan Skolnick said: “It’s simple. Municipal officers should come to hear the concerns of the community. They are expressing their right to protest and its our obligation to listen.” Mayor Jill Duson said she was attending to be “part of a respectful audience in the community.” She looks forward to meeting with the Sudanese community after the rally as the Sudanese community had requested.
The most eloquent speaker among the numerous speakers from the African community was Lado Lodoka who said in part: “We are not used to expressing our opinion. We are used to suffering in silence. This is a new adventure for us. We didn’t come here to cause trouble. We came here 16 years ago for a better life, but peace is becoming a distant memory. Here people sit at a table and try to work out problems. Not like in Sudan. Here we live in the land of laws and no one is above the law. We come in peace to find answers to pur pain,” said Lodoka. “We believe that the p0lice have not done enough to investigate the murders of the two members of our community.” Lodoka is a case manager at Community Counseling in Portland.
The peaceful march began at the corner of North Street and Congress Street at 1:00 p.m. About 35 protestors walked the several blocks down Congress Street carrying banners and singing hymns in both their native tongue and English. The march was to have begun at the corner of the Eastern Promenade and Congress Street at 1:00 p.m., but was moved down Congress Street several blocks to make it easier to find for participants.
The Portland Police Department provided a large escort from Munjoy Hill to City Hall but its presence was not required during the peaceful rally on city hall steps.