A national news site reported Monday that a neo-Nazi and his followers on a far-right social media network are planning to relocate to Maine in hopes of establishing an all-white ethnostate.
While former Marine Chris Pohlhaus and his followers on the far-right social media network Telegram might never make the move, it wouldn’t be the first time Maine has held an appeal for a group espousing white supremacy.
VICE News obtained private chat logs on the social media network showing Pohlhaus and his followers discussing a move to areas north or east of Bangor, including Aroostook County. They exchanged real estate listings, asked about details on tax liens and suggested forming a Nazi homeowners’ association. Pohlhaus and his followers see Maine as a desirable place because of loose gun laws and the state’s highest-in-the-nation percentage of white residents.
One historian pointed to the Ku Klux Klan’s presence in Maine in the 20th century as one reason white supremacists might mistakenly believe the state would welcome their presence.
The first Klan parade to take place in New England took place in Milo in September 1923 . It was the group’s first parade in the U.S. to take place in daylight, according to Maine State Historian Earle Shettleworth.
“The Klan was active with parades and activities pretty much all over the state,” he said. “They had a brief, fairly high-level presence, then by the late 1920s, people had moved on.”
In Maine, the KKK’s main focus then was on espousing anti-Catholic sentiment in reaction to the high number of Irish and French immigrants moving to Maine, said Jamie Rice, the Maine Historical Society’s director of collections and research.
“The [Maine] Klan presence was the largest representation out of the American South in its heyday, especially for a northeastern state, statistically speaking,” Rice said. “As with any large rise in immigration, we see people who are uncomfortable with changes in culture gravitate towards nativism.”
While the KKK’s influence waned toward the end of the 1920s, its presence has been felt in Maine more recently.
In January 2017, Freeport residents including then-House Speaker Sara Gideon reported that flyers advertising a “24-hour Klan-line” had been left all over their South Freeport Road neighborhood. Similar flyers were also found in Augusta.
The following year the town of Jackman fired its town manager after the Bangor Daily News reported that Tom Kawczynski had founded a white separatist group called New Albion and espoused anti-Muslim and racist ideas.
Kawczynski told the BDN he moved to New Hampshire, where he lived before moving to Maine, because “cultural and political divides … put danger to people’s quality of life” in Pennsylvania, where he lived previously and ran for office. He said he wanted to preserve northern New England’s white majority.
More recently, Kyle Fitzsimons, the first Maine resident charged with participating in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots in Washington, D.C., told lawmakers in 2018 that he had moved to the state from Rhode Island and New York to “escape multicultural hellholes.” He accused lawmakers of not doing enough to preserve “Yankee New England culture.”