HALLOWELL – Some 30 residents held a rally Wednesday evening at Granite City Park in Hallowell to denounce hate, gathering near the rainbow-colored chairs beside the Kennebec River where Pride and other flags and signs were displayed.

The rally was prompted by an incident at a recent City Council meeting where anonymous individuals joined remotely via Zoom and spouted racist, homophobic and antisemitic comments.

“This was planned within a few days. We just wanted to gather the community and show support,” Alex AuCoin, the event organizer and the wife of Councilor Maureen AuCoin, said.

Small campaign signs remained planted in lawns and gardens in front of numerous houses around the park. Some read “Vote for Maureen AuCoin,” while others read “Reelect Mayor LaPointe.”

AuCoin is running for mayor, but noted the event had nothing to do with the upcoming election.

“We wanted to keep it completely separate from the campaigning,” she said. “That is why I am not speaking today. It is a community-based event, not campaigning-based.”


A few yards away from her stood Mayor George Lapointe holding a sign that read “Equality for All.”

“We all hate that it happened, and as you see today, people are rallying to make sure that everyone is welcome in this town,” he said.

He said the town is working to change the way people participate in meetings, including guidelines for addressing council members during meetings, barring profanity and other offensive speech.

“We are also working with the tech guys to get up to speed with the technology to become more aware,” Lapointe said.

The incident in Hallowell is not an isolated one. Other cities such as Portland and Bangor are also dealing with similar problems, dubbed Zoom-bombings, where anonymous people join in to abuse council members and make hateful comments.

“The hate speech has become rarer than it was a couple of decades ago, but it’s still present, and we don’t want it to go back to those days when people would throw eggs and shout slurs,” Bruce Mayo, a local business owner and Hallowell resident, said.


Victor Trepanier, vice president of Hallowell Pride Alliance, speaks Wednesday during the Hallowell United Rally in Granite City Park in Hallowell. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Alex AuCoin stood tall atop a rock in the park and addressed the crowd: “Hallowell will not tolerate hate because we are a place of love.”

Victor Trapanier, a member of the Hallowell Pride Alliance, addressed the crowd to reaffirm similar sentiments.

“When we ask for flags and symbols on the streets, it’s not for a frivolous reason,” he said. “We do that so we can tell if a place is safe for us, or not. I love all of you beautiful people, and I am immensely proud to be living here.”

Rabbi Erica Asch of Temple Beth El in Augusta also spoke. She said she never expected to work with law enforcement on how to respond to bomb threats, but that is what she has been doing lately because that’s what the reality is; yet she hopes for a better future.

Alex AuCoin urged everyone to come forward and sign a copy of the Granite City Value Statement erected on an easel. The statement, agreed upon by the City Council, promotes inclusivity in Hallowell.

Adults and children slowly walked up, greeting each other, hugging and smiling to sign the statement in a simple act of support.

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