GOV. PAUL LEPAGE, above, at a town hall event at the University of Southern Maine Tuesday in Portland. “All lives matter, ” LePage said to a Black Lives Matter protester at the event. In the photo on the right, Black Lives Matter activists gather outside of Hannaford Hall following Governor Paul LePage’s town hall event.

PORTLAND

 

 

Gov. Paul LePage faced more than a dozen spirited interruptions during a town hall meeting at the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus Tuesday, ranging from profanity-laced denunciations to chants of “Black Lives Matter.”

“I wonder what their parents are doing tonight?” dismissed LePage after one such outbreak of chanting.

The governor was invited to speak at USM by the campus chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative student organization.

“My group is nonpartisan and we don’t affiliate with a party,” said Benjamin Bussiere, the chair of the USM Young Americans for Freedom. “My goal is to bring both perspectives, conservative and liberal, together to ask questions that affect our state.”

As in previous town hall events, LePage reiterated his message that high taxes were pushing people to leave Maine and the burdensome cost of energy made the state uncompetitive.

Several minutes into LePage’s remarks, the protests began with one individual standing up and calling the governor an obscenity — one LePage himself had used in a profanity-laden voicemail to Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, last year. The protester peacefully left after making his remark.

After that point, the governor was subject to interruptions every five minutes until the end of the town hall meeting.

“There is a war being waged against brown and black people in this country and in this state. Your policies are a part of that.” yelled one protester before walking out to chants of “Black Lives Matter.”

One audience member responded by calling Black Lives Matter a terrorist organization, to the applause of several vocal LePage supporters.

“I would say this: All lives matter,” said the governor.

“All lives can’t matter until black lives matter in this country, in this state, in this city,” retorted another protester a few minutes later before being lead out.

“We agree with you,” said LePage without elaborating. “Thank you.”

LePage largely stuck to his talking points throughout the evening, ignoring most of the intermittent verbal protests that took place. As the event wore on, LePage supporters grew increasingly vocal, shouting down Black Lives Matter activists and telling them to “shut up” and “get out.” Each protester left peacefully after being asked to leave, and afterwards about two dozen people gathered to sing protest songs outside of Hannaford Hall as people exited the event.

“I want to thank you all, despite all the commotion,” said the governor. “It was … uh, I survived it.”

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