Four Pride-themed barriers outside Pepino's in downtown Bangor were vandalized. Eleven barriers with Pride flags were vandalized by September of 2020. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

After Bangor resident Tahmoor Khan found his car covered in racist graffiti last week, he alerted local police, who then reported it to the Maine Attorney General, which has the power to bring hate crime charges.

Despite its shocking nature, Khan’s ordeal is just one of many such incidents in Maine, according to new hate crime data from the FBI.

In 2020, there were 83 reported hate crime incidents in Maine, a number that was four times higher than the 19 reported for 2019. There were also more hate crimes in 2020 than in the previous three years combined.

Hate crimes against Black people and members of the LGBTQ community were most prevalent. There were 32 reported incidents involving anti-Black or anti-African American bias, and 29 that involved anti-LGBTQ bias, according to the data, which come from law enforcement agencies. While Maine’s population has grown more diverse over the past decade, it is still the whitest state in the U.S.

There were five reported crimes against Jewish people, and another three reported against Asian Mainers.

Last month, the Stop AAPI Hate coalition, which gathers data on hate crimes against Asian American and Pacific Islanders,   reported that more than 9,000 hate crimes were committed against Asian people nationwide between March 2020 and June 2021. The group attributed this to racist rhetoric about the coronavirus’ Chinese origins. In March of this year, a man shot six Asian women to death in an Atlanta massage parlor.  

Maine’s hate crime numbers don’t come as a surprise, said David Patrick, co-director and co-founder of Racial Equity and Justice, a racial justice advocacy organization in Bangor.

“Anti-Black racism is so ingrained that it’s become a catch-all for all kinds of hatred,” he said.

In 2020, there were several hateful incidents in Bangor.

In June, teenagers allegedly spray-painted a swastika on the street in front of Congregation Beth Israel. In September, an Orono man was accused of defacing downtown concrete barriers painted with the LGBTQ flag. He pleaded not guilty to criminal mischief the next month.

Nationally, there were 7,759 hate crimes reported in 2020, a 6 percent increase from the previous year’s total of 7,287. The majority of crimes targeted Black people, followed by Latino and Hispanic people.

Lia Russell

Lia Russell is a reporter on the city desk for the Bangor Daily News. Send tips to LRussell@bangordailynews.com.