PORTLAND, Maine — Police officers appeared at the home of a journalist Tuesday morning, telling his wife they planned to arrest him for criminal mischief.
The journalist said the accusations were trumped up and believes the visit was stoked by two recent tweets he made that were critical of the police.
Christian Milneil, a data journalist for the Boston-based StreetsBlog MASS, took footage of the police officers from the upstairs of his Portland home and documented the incident on Twitter.
The officers allegedly spoke to Milneil’s wife, who found them on the porch when she returned from an errand. One was uniformed, the other wore a polo shirt.
Jes Milneil told the officers they needed a warrant to arrest Milneil.
“They told me they were just trying to help him out, and that he should, ‘Be a man and come down here,’” Jes Milneil said, referring to statements allegedly made by the officer in the polo shirt.
— Christian Neal MilNeil (@c_milneil) June 9, 2020
According to her, the uniformed officer said, “We know [Milneil has] preconceived notions about the police, we know that as a fact.”
Jes Milneil said her heart was in her throat.
“How could they know what I think about cops?” she said.
Within hours after Christian Milneil documented the incident, the city of Portland tweeted that he is suspected of vandalizing a building in his neighborhood with graffiti. Police tweeted that officers were there to serve him a court summons for criminal mischief.
A city spokesperson did not specify which building, but Christian Milneil said he believes they’re referring to a low-income housing complex operated by Avesta Housing on the corner of Oxford and Boyd streets known as the Bayside Anchor building. The building has a community policing substation in it. As of Tuesday, a BDN reporter found no graffiti there.
Christian Milneil denied any role in the vandalism.
“It’s definitely not me. The notion that I would vandalize a building that I was a big advocate for is absurd,” he said. “That’s not my style of activism or advocacy. There are much more effective ways of saying that the police are overfunded.”
Christian Milneil sits on the board of the Portland Housing Authority, which is in part responsible for the building.
Christian Milneil said the police can’t press charges about observations he has made on social media, so they’re trying to wrongfully charge him for vandalism instead.
“They’re spending way too much time arresting or harassing homeless people,” he said. “I think that’s actually what they’re upset about.”
Christian Milneil tweeted Monday night about Standish, a Maine town that he said has defunded its local police, and relies on “lightly-staffed county sheriffs for law enforcement.” Last week, he also posted about a Portland police officer who fatally shot Chance David Baker, a 22-year-old black man, in a confrontation in a parking lot.
“Just a reminder: Sgt. Nicholas Goodman, the #PortlandME cop who shot and killed Chance David Baker for carrying a BB gun in 2018, ALSO escalated a traffic stop and shot and killed another victim in May 2008,” Milneil’s tweet reads.
Calls to defund the Portland Police Department have been a chief demand in multiple protests in Portland since May 29. On Friday, an estimated 2,000 people attended a protest organized by Black Lives Matter Portland, which called for city officials to divert funds earmarked for law enforcement to schools, jobs and social services.
The Milneils have attended some of those protests. On Friday evening, Christian Milneil and his wife and their two children attended one organized by Black Lives Matter Portland.