News

Democratic House Speaker Gideon Organizes Freeport Event to Denounce KKK Fliers

By Dennis HoeyFREEPORT — Residents packed the auditorium at the Freeport Community Center Tuesday night to stand up against a message of racism and hatred that they said will not be tolerated in their community. Organizers estimated that a crowd of more than 200 people came to the event in response to the distribution of Ku Klux Klan fliers in South Freeport on Monday morning. There were so many people at the rally that about 100 had to wait outside and await a second session to hear several guest speakers. Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, organized the event after someone left KKK fliers at the end of driveways and near mailboxes in her neighborhood along South Freeport Road. The one-page fliers, stuffed inside sandwich bags weighted down by pebbles, said: “You can sleep knowing the Klan is awake! Are there troubles in your neighborhood? Contact the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Today!” The fliers feature a large drawing of a Klan member wearing a white robe and pointed hood, as well as Klan members on horseback, the group’s insignia, Christian crosses and the American flag. A "neighborhood watch" flier left in a Freeport driveway included text – not shown – that read: "Are there troubles in your neighborhood? Contact the ... Ku Klux Klan Today!"A “neighborhood watch” flier left in a Freeport driveway included text – not shown – that read: “Are there troubles in your neighborhood? Contact the … Ku Klux Klan Today!” Staff photo by Ben McCannaGideon told the crowd that they came together to reject hate and to push aside those individuals who try to divide them. Gideon said some people questioned the need to hold a community rally, arguing that they were giving credence to those who foster hate. “But I told them the answer is simple: We can’t be silent in the face of hate,” Gideon said. Gov. Paul Lepage also condemned the KKK during a radio interview Tuesday, calling the fliers disgusting. During his weekly appearance on the Bangor-based WVOM “George Hale and Ric Tyler Show,” LePage said he didn’t know if the fliers were legitimate or a prank, but either way they were inappropriate and “appalling.” “I find it disgusting and there is no room for that in our society,” LePage said. “Just the simple thought of it is appalling, the brain that thought that up is a sick brain.” About 20 of the fliers were found along South Freeport Road. The same fliers also were dropped in residential areas in Augusta, and a state representative from Topsham said Tuesday that KKK fliers were also distributed in neighborhoods in that community. Police responded to complaints about the fliers in Freeport and Augusta, but said they did not appear to be illegal, except that dropping them in people’s driveways violated anti-littering laws. The one-page flier with black-and-red printing announces the formation of a Ku Klux Klan neighborhood watch and urges people to call an 800 number that is the “24 Hour Klanline” of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which has a website. No one has responded to a reporter’s call seeking information about the group. The KKK, a largely secretive society organized in the South after the Civil War to assert white supremacy, has a long history of promoting bigotry and violence against blacks, immigrants, Jews, Roman Catholics and other groups, and was active in Maine in the 1920s. Gideon was joined by several other speakers, including Regional School Unit 5 Superintendent Becky Foley, two town councilors, a state senator, a Freeport High School student, a minister from the South Freeport Congregational Church and the town’s middle school principal. Foley, who moved to Maine from Houston in 1986, said she witnessed racial hatred in her younger years. “We can’t let these fliers define who we are. We know that organizations like the Ku Klux Klan exist because of ignorance. The best defense against ignorance is education,” Foley said, pledging that Freeport schools will continue to teach tolerance, patience and respect. Freeport High School sophomore Benjamin Morang thanked the crowd for showing up. The 16-year-old, who said he has two sisters who are Asian and a brother who is black, was grateful that so many adults turned out to take a stand against an extremist group such as the Klan. He said there is enough hatred in the world without having to deal with those who have a history of promoting bigotry and violence against blacks, immigrants and Jews. “Although we may be constantly surrounded by hate, we need to remember how to love,” Morang said. The Rev. David Bowling encouraged residents to reach out to their neighbors and to strangers. “This is not about getting angry or fearful. It’s about reaching out to our neighbors and the people we don’t know. It’s a call for action,” Bowling said. Town Council Chairwoman Sarah Tracy said Freeport may be home to dozens of retail stores, but she said what many outsiders don’t know that makes it special is the town’s sense of community. “We are a family and it is disconcerting when someone does something like this,” Tracy said. “It left an ugly reminder that the world is big and not always good. One thing I do know is that a few fliers won’t change our community’s kindness and inclusiveness.” Kate Brogan grew up in Freeport. She recently moved to Portland, but came back to her hometown to show her 9-year-old son, Jack, that hate and bigotry will not be tolerated. “I’m not that surprised this happened,” Kate Brogan said of the fliers. “It’s been happening everywhere in this country. ” Brogan believes that some Americans have felt this type of deep hatred for a long time. They just haven’t been able to express themselves until now. “I think people are feeling emboldened now,” Brogan said.

Recent photos

IMG_1726IMG_1751IMG_1749IMG_1748IMG_1747IMG_1746IMG_1742IMG_1741

Request Email Updates

Like Us on Facebook