A Portland city councilor who says he and his business have been threatened and attacked since he voted to approve an indoor mask mandate said Friday that the situation has escalated to the point where he’s contacted police.

Councilor Andrew Zarro said the backlash he’s been getting includes threatening social media comments and direct messages, voicemails, emails and fictitious reviews of his coffee shop, Little Woodfords.

“Yes, (police) are aware and I’m actively working with them on it,” Zarro said in an email.

All eight of his colleagues on the City Council issued statements Friday in support of Zarro and said such attacks and threats will not be tolerated.

Meanwhile, some who are criticizing Zarro say the backlash isn’t about the mask mandate but rather about stickers Zarro was selling in his coffee shop last month that read “Abort Republicans” and “defund God.”

Zarro said he sold the stickers for a fundraiser to protect reproductive rights and he received no complaints about them until after the mask mandate vote Monday night.


“These stickers were not newsworthy until they were weaponized against me because of my vote as a part of the unanimous decision by the city council on Monday night’s mask mandate,” he said in a written statement.

Portland City Councilor Andrew Zarro, photographed in his shop in 2019, says he and his business have been attacked since he voted for an indoor mask mandate. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“This has put my business at very high risk and has put me at high risk. We need to stop discussing stickers and get back to what is actually happening, an attempt to undermine, threaten and bully elected officials from extreme points of view when a vote does not pan out a certain way.”

The Maine Republican Party on Friday condemned the stickers and also used them as part of a fundraising effort. Jason Savage, the party’s executive director, said he had heard complaints about them from several people.

“Selling merchandise that says hundreds of thousands of Mainers should be ‘aborted’ for their political beliefs is sickening,” Savage said in an email. “And this Portland elected official in his progressive Portland bubble may be surprised to learn that selling ‘Defund God’ items is not going to be well received by people of many different faiths regardless of their political persuasion.”

Savage said he did not know why the opposition to the stickers surfaced this week. “It’s hard for me to provide anything such as a timeline as the issue just came into our view in the last few days,” he said.

The party mentioned the stickers in a fundraising email asking for donations Friday.


“We’re fighting this toxic hatred of Republicans and people of faith by putting our energy towards winning on Election Day,” the email said.

In his statement, Zarro said, “These sold-out sticker packs were a direct response to the national attacks on Roe V. Wade by Republicans and all proceeds were given to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. They were satirical commentary made by an artist – we did not make them. I continue to stand by a person’s right to abortion.”

Earlier in the week, the stickers drew attention from the Daily Wire, a conservative news site co-founded by commentator Ben Shapiro, as well as Post Millennial, a Canadian site that described them as “disturbing political stickers that call (for) Republicans to be aborted.”

On Friday, the restaurant review site Yelp had a notification up on the Little Woodfords page saying the page was being monitored due to media reports and recent increased attention.

“While we don’t take a stand one way or the other when it comes to this incident, we’ve temporarily disabled the posting of content to this page as we work to investigate the content you see here reflects actual consumer experiences rather than the recent events,” the notification said.

David Singer, a spokesman for the Portland Police Department, confirmed Friday that the department has been in touch with Zarro and is aware of the situation, but said he couldn’t comment further.


The statements of support for Zarro from fellow councilors were all sent together Friday.

“There is no place in our community for attacks against one of us as the result of a decision that we made together as a body,” Councilor Pious Ali said in his statement. “We can disagree with one another and members of the public can disagree with our decisions, but to coordinate a national attack against a fellow Councilor that has resulted in personal threats and slurs against him and his business is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.”

Most councilors either did not respond or declined to comment when asked about the stickers, although one councilor said that while he condemns the attacks against Zarro, he also doesn’t agree with the stickers.

“I advised Councilor Zarro that even if it was satirical, it’s not in good taste,” said Councilor Tae Chong. “I thought maybe he should apologize for that, but that’s up to him.”

Councilor Mark Dion, in an interview, said he didn’t know the full extent of the backlash Zarro is receiving but said it appears to be a result of Monday’s vote on the mask mandate, which Zarro sponsored.

“I think the stickers provided an opportunity to ramp up the attack like, ‘Aha, we have something. Now we can step on the gas pedal,’ ” Dion said. “I’m sure (critics) might deny that, but that’s why I’m avoiding this debate. You’re being drawn into a rabbit hole and there’s no end to it.

“If someone has a legitimate concern about it,” Dion said of the stickers, “they can communicate to him in a reasonable fashion and say, ‘I object to it. Can you take it down?’ ”

Dion said the situation is representative of a decline in public discourse, a reason why many people may not want to run for office.

“If you reach out to us in a reasonable fashion, we will be reasonable in responding,” Dion said. “I think what the council is trying to say today is, if you cross that line where I feel you’re attacking me or bad things will happen to me because of decisions I made in an open forum that you disagree with, that’s not reasonable or rational. That’s something else. And I think that’s what Andrew has been experiencing. It’s not right.”

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