FREEPORT, Maine — Residents of South Freeport Road awoke Monday morning to find Ku Klux Klan brochures littering their driveways.
Jack May, who has lived near the center of South Freeport village for six years, went for a run at 6:30 a.m. and saw the fliers, folded and enclosed with pebbles in Ziploc bags, in a number of driveways along his route. He went home and called the police.
The single-page, multicolored flier announces a Ku Klux Klan neighborhood watch and encourages people to call a “24-hour Klanline.”
The Ku Klux Klan, the oldest American hate group, has typically targeted black Americans, but it also has attacked Jews, immigrants, gays and lesbians and, until recently, Catholics, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is based in Missouri.
“You can sleep tonight knowing the Klan is awake!” the flier distributed in Freeport states. “Are there troubles in your neighborhood? Contact the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan today!”
May said he was shocked when he saw what the fliers said, and he said he’s never seen anything like them in Freeport.
“Everyone knows everyone in this town,” he said. “It’s a very small town, a very sweet town.”
A 39-year-old Augusta man discovered similar fliers at a bus stop on Washington Street as he dropped his young children off Monday morning. Similar fliers also were found in November 2016 in Knox County.
“The other parent thought it was homework, but [my husband] said, ‘That’s not what that is,’” said the Augusta man’s wife, who asked that neither she nor her husband be named and spoke for her husband because English is not his first language. “He waited until the kids were gone and took it to the police station.
“I did feel targeted,” she said. “They weren‘t just thrown out arbitrarily. They were definitely meant to tell people of color that they’re not welcome. … It kind of makes you lay low and weigh the pros and cons of going to pick up coffee.”
The man took the flier to the police station, where he was told similar fliers had been discovered overnight on nearby Northern Avenue.
A call to Augusta police was not immediately returned on Monday afternoon.
A call to the toll-free number is answered by a message stating that the group is “unapologetically committed to the interests and values of the white race” and “determined to maintain and enrich our cultural and racial heritage. … [The organization] is simply a movement of white people to uphold the highest standards of western Christian civilization.”
Callers are asked to press different keys to get a return phone call, “check on the status of [their] application” or receive an information packet.
A dozen houses down South Freeport Road from May, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon drove out of her driveway Monday morning and didn’t see fliers — but she saw a number of Freeport police cars at the ends of driveways. When she drove home a few minutes later, she saw the police at houses farther down the road, she said Monday.
Gideon said she was disturbed and angry about the fliers but also determined.
“I and my neighbors and fellow Freeporters, at least, because I don’t know where else this has landed, will absolutely stand together and say that there is no place for these people anywhere in our community,” she said. “The values they represent on that flier or their voicemail is not ones any of us share and that we will absolutely, loudly drive them away.”
After May called police, Freeport officers collected fliers from 12 to 15 driveways along South Freeport Road and South Street, where the road continues into downtown Freeport, according to Freeport Police Chief Susan Nourse.
“We went and collected them because they were reported to us as being offensive,” she said. “It’s something we wouldn’t want left at the end of driveways — it’s not like they were delivered to a residence, from the way they were packaged.”
But aside from littering, Nourse said the fliers themselves aren’t illegal.
“It’s an informational flier, so it’s letting people know what the phone number is and that the organization exists,” she said.
Still, Nourse said anyone who found these or any fliers and feels threatened by them should call Freeport police.
“KKK fliers may be protected speech under the First Amendment, but that doesn’t make them OK,” Alison Beyea, executive director of the ACLU of Maine, said Monday afternoon. “This has to be a wake-up call to everyone in Maine that we are not immune to racism, and we all have a responsibility to speak out against this hatred.”
May said he does not believe the fliers are unrelated to the national political discourse around President Donald Trump’s campaign and election.
“They feel like they can get away with anything now,” he said. “They feel like they have the backing of the commander-in-chief.”
“That this all happened in one day sort of intensifies [the concern],” the Augusta woman said. “It’s a rally — a movement. The scary part, realistically, is that it could be a calm before a storm. What’s next?”