A handful of craft vendors have pulled their items from a furniture and mattress store by the Bangor Mall after the store’s owner requested that someone print sweatshirts featuring the insignia of the far-right group the Proud Boys.
On Sunday, Kathy Harvey, owner of Furniture, Mattresses and More, posted in the Bangor Mall Craft Fair Facebook group — a private group she administers with 2,500 members — asking if somebody could print hoodies with the Proud Boys logo along with the phrase “stand back, stand by.”
The phrase is likely a reference to a statement President Donald Trump made about the group during a debate with president-elect Joe Biden in late September. He was responding to a question asking whether he would condemn white supremacist and militia groups.
Harvey was requesting the hoodies in advance of rallies taking place in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday as Congress counts the electoral votes from November’s election.
While Harvey later deleted the post, screenshots of it quickly spread across social media, drawing scorn to her business and the Bangor Mall. Many said they would not shop in the store in the future.
Beth Thompson of Argyle, who runs Red Sunset Ceramics, and Amanda Coburn of Hampden said they had pulled their items from the store’s craft section in the aftermath.
“Anyone who knows me personally knows that I do not tolerate racism, bigotry or xenophobia in my life,” Coburn said. “Nor do I want to be associated with an organization that supports it. So ties have been severed.”
Thompson cited similar concerns about Harvey’s request for Proud Boys merchandise.
“Racism is unacceptable. I do not want to ever support, even passively, that position,” Coburn said.
Pamela Hansberry, director of the animal rescue service Forgotten Felines of Maine, said she wishes Harvey and her staff no harm, but didn’t want her organization associated with “racism and hate.”
The Bangor Mall’s management also distanced itself from the request for Proud Boys clothing in a statement on Wednesday.
“Kathy Harvey owns her building and operates independently of Bangor Mall,” the mall said. “Her views do not reflect those of our team.”
About 150 local vendors sell crafts in a section of Furniture, Mattresses and More, Harvey said. Three had pulled out as of Wednesday, according to Harvey: Thompson, Coburn and Forgotten Felines of Maine.
Harvey is well known in the Bangor area’s craft community: In November 2019, she organized a craft fair that brought an estimated 22,000 people to the Bangor Mall. Her store moved into the spot vacated by the Macy’s department store in 2018.
Customers who were traveling to Washington, D.C., to participate in a pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” rally requested the hoodies, Harvey said Wednesday.
While she is a Trump supporter — and her son and daughter-in-law had traveled to the capital for the protest — Harvey said she did not support the Proud Boys or realize they were a racist organization when she made the Facebook post.
“I wouldn’t have done it if I had known they were racist,” Harvey said.
The Proud Boys have been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group that tracks organizations espousing hate speech and other extremist beliefs throughout the U.S. A Proud Boys leader, Henry Tarrio, recently took credit for burning a Black Lives Matter banner at a Black church in Washington, D.C. He was charged with destruction of property and possession of high-capacity firearm magazines, and a judge on Tuesday ordered him to leave the nation’s capital.
Harvey described the reaction to her post as an “attack against her company,” which she said had facilitated the printing of several items featuring logos for groups and people across the political spectrum.
The store will not sell any political items from now on, Harvey said, and it has pulled all of its politically oriented merchandise.