ROCKLAND, Maine — A Waldoboro woman who was competing for the title of Maine Sea Goddess dropped out of the competition Friday, a day after she gained publicity for having the Confederate battle flag stolen from her pickup truck.
The Maine Lobster Festival posted the announcement on its website Friday.
“As of this morning, Rebekah Hilt will no longer participate in the 2015 Maine Sea Goddess Coronation. This was a difficult decision for Rebekah, but she felt that it was in her best interests to step down from her position as Sea Princess. We would like to wish Rebekah luck in her future endeavors and thank her for her participation in one of the Maine Lobster Festival’s oldest traditions throughout the last couple of months.”
The festival added a statement Saturday morning, saying it was Hilt’s decision.
On Thursday, Rockland police posted a video in an effort to locate the unidentified woman who ripped the flag from the back of Hilt’s truck while it was parked at Rockland Harbor Park.
After the story of the theft went public, there was considerable social media commentary. Some criticized the person who stole the flag while others criticized Hilt for flying it.
Rockland police took down the video Thursday evening after it was being flooded with negative comments.
“For the handful of people thinking there’s a grand conspiracy afoot or that police shouldn’t waste taxpayer dollars investigating a misdemeanor crime, don’t worry, we still like you too. You remind us of family,” the department’s site now states.
Hilt said Saturday morning she dropped out because of the comments she was receiving.
“I felt like when the group went out in public that I’d be harassed and judged for something that I stood up for. I didn’t want any negative attention to go towards to coronation,” Hilt said.
She said she felt the criticism was unfair.
“If this was a different flag, it could be considered a hate crime. Theft is theft, no matter what the flag is. [The] flag can be replaced, but vandalism to my property is a little ridiculous,” she said.
In an interview Thursday with the Bangor Daily News, Hilt said she meant no harm in flying the flag, saying it was a gift.
“It’s just fun,” Hilt said.
She said she did not believe the flag stands for slavery, adding that the Civil War and slavery ended long ago.
No one has been charged yet for the theft.
Display of the Confederate battle flag has generated considerable debate since nine people were gunned down June 17 at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, South Carolina. Dylann Storm Roof, 21, who has been charged in connection with those murders, was pictured holding the flag on a website that also carried a racist manifesto.
Those calling for the removal of the flag from public display argue it is a symbol of racism, slavery and oppression of African-Americans. Defenders of the flag see it as a symbol of southern pride, heritage and history.