Fewer than three dozen people turned out for what was billed by organizers as a “Rally to Denounce Political Violence” at the State House Saturday afternoon.
Several speakers, including Massachusetts Libertarian congressional candidate Samson Racioppi, used their bullhorns to criticize the media for distorting coverage of deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month after a white nationalist demonstration.
Although he said he disagrees with the views of KKK, Racioppi said he supports their free speech right to display Nazi symbols without being subjected to violence. He also blamed the media for suppressing this point of view.
But at a counterprotest across the street in Capitol Park, critics said the rally was a thinly veiled attempt to legitimize white supremacy. They pointed out that the organizers of the Maine rally had ties to some of the same groups that organized a similar event in Boston a few weeks ago. It was denounced by the mayor and civil rights leaders as a hate rally.
The Augusta gathering of more than 80 people included representatives from the Greater Bangor Area Branch of the NAACP, Progressive Portland and the Socialist Party of Maine, as well as others.
Dan Ankeles of Brunswick said he came out to “make sure our friends know that we support them, we stand up for them and that Maine is a place where there are many, many people who are welcoming and caring and reject this sort of hateful behavior that I think has been on the rise for several years.”
Irving Gilbert of Augusta said he was participating to “stand up for what’s right.” He said President Donald Trump is responsible for bringing white supremacists out of the closet and emboldening them to the point that it’s accepted.
“Instead,” Gilbert said, “it’s shameful. Their arguments are ridiculous.”
Carrying signs that said “Resist,” “White Supremacy is Political Violence” and “Solidarity Trumps Hate,” more than a dozen counterprotesters walked over to the State House, where they engaged in an extended shouting match with Racioppi and several others, under the watchful eye of local, state and capitol police, who had a heavy presence in the background.
The event ended peacefully.
This report appears as part of a media partnership with Maine Public.