A Maine blueberry company has apologized after local people complained that one of its rakers was flying a Confederate flag at a field in Sedgwick.
The man who flew the flag, Marc Pelletier of Steuben, said he agreed to take it down, but that he was offended he was asked to, and argued the Civil War symbol doesn’t make him a racist.
Pelletier, 55, who refers to himself as a “red-blooded Yankee Mainer,” said he is not a white nationalist. He flew the Confederate flag from his tractor, then a pole in the ground and from blueberry crates at the blueberry barrens on Old County Road in Sedgwick for two days before he agreed to remove it.
Nearby residents complained about seeing the Confederate flag, which has been the subject of renewed debate after white nationalists used the symbol during violent demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one counterprotester dead and many people injured.
“I believe in our veterans,” he said of why he flies the flag. He said that during the Civil War, Confederate soldiers, like Union soldiers, were just “Americans fighting for their rights.”
“I believe in my country; I believe in Donald Trump,” Pelletier said.
Pelletier was picking in the area for G.M. Allen & Son — an Orland-based, family-run blueberry harvester and distributor.
Annie Allen, vice president of the company, told the BDN she absolutely did not want her company to be associated with the flag and what it represents.
“Customers and members of the community were offended by the Confederate flag, and as a corporation, we have no business endorsing it,” she said.
Especially in this time of “uprising,” like in the case of Charlottesville, Allen said people are more “sensitive” to seeing a Confederate flag being flown.
The family operation, primarily headed by women, is an equal opportunity employer and the family employs a diverse population, she said. The flag in no way represents her family’s beliefs, she said.
The Allen family responded quickly and asked the subcontractor to take down the flag as soon as it was brought to the company’s attention by Sedgwick neighbors, Allen said.
On Monday, the day it was removed, Allen released a statement saying that her family had received numerous calls about the issue and that they appreciate the community’s concern.
“We are upset to hear that this hateful symbol was displayed. These are not G.M. Allen’s values,” Allen wrote. “We are very disappointed that we are being depicted this way, and we apologize to all who were offended.”
Pelletier said that he was offended that the Allen family asked him to remove his flag.
“I want to have these rights,” Pelletier said Wednesday.
He doesn’t think he should have had to remove the flag from his tractor, just “because I offended somebody that was driving by a back road in Down East Maine and saw a tractor in the field flying the flag.”
“No. 1: the Canadian border ain’t that far; and No. 2: them breathing offends me, [but] I don’t ask them to stop breathing,” he said.
“When I don’t like something, I don’t look at it — it’s pretty cut and dry,” Pelletier said.
In the days since, the Allen family has continued to receive phone calls from people in the community thanking them, but also from individuals arguing with the decision to remove the flag, Allen said.
Michele, a Sedgwick woman who asked that her full name not be used for fear of retribution, said she “was shocked” to see it flying in the Maine town and that she was one of the local people who called G.M. Allen & Sons to complain. She said she appreciated the company’s quick response in asking the picker to remove it.
“It was shocking that it was right there — it’s on the radio, it’s on the TV, and then I walk out my door in rural Maine and there it is,” she said. “The Confederate flag, I don’t really see it any different than looking at a swastika. It represents hate and oppression and racism.”