Community members assemble for an anti-hate rally in Biddeford on Sunday, Oct 1. Eloise Goldsmith photo

BIDDEFORD — On a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon, roughly 30 Biddeford and Saco residents gathered in Mechanics Park in Biddeford to put a spotlight on something decidedly less cheery: recent neo-Nazi and white supremacist activity in the state of Maine.

Sunday’s rally was organized by the local chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) — a group that organizes white people in support of racial and economic justice — and brought together lawmakers, community leaders and residents. Members of Saco City Council and members of Maine’s state legislature spoke at the event. Attendees also heard from community member and local musician, Rodney Mashia.

Delilah Poupore, a member of the Biddeford-Saco chapter of SURJ and the executive director of the economic development organization Heart of Biddeford, said SURJ was motivated to proactively bring together the community to address recent far right activity.

“We think it’s better to gather people now and get people on the same page and reiterate our commitment to community, justice (and) equality, as opposed to waiting until something happens and gathering after and saying ‘Oh, isn’t that too bad that happened,'” she said.

A group of masked men, shown here giving a Nazi salute, demonstrated outside the state Capitol in Augusta Saturday, chanting “refugees go home.” Lawmakers from both parties have condemned the group. Photo courtesy of Lance Tapley

In recent months, neo-Nazi groups in Maine have held small but highly visible rallies across the state. In April, a group of neo-Nazis marched through the downtown Portland, yelling slurs and engaging in a physical fight with a counter protestor. Roughly two dozen neo-Nazis rallied in front of the Maine State House in Augusta in August. The group harassed cars at a nearby stop light, including shouting “refugees go home” at a car with Black passengers. A former U.S. Marine named Christopher Pohlhaus, leader of the neo-Nazi “Blood Tribe,” has invited white supremacists to join him on land he purchased in Springfield, where he intends to build a neo-Nazi training camp.

One state lawmaker, Senator Joe Baldacci of Bangor, has drafted legislation in response to the planned training camp that will be considered during the next legislative session. His bill would make it a criminal offense to offer training with the intent of causing “civil disorder,” including training in explosives and firearms.


In Biddeford, a September public meeting was disrupted when someone used the live public comment feature available in Zoom meetings to spew racist, homophobic and inflammatory rhetoric, according to Saco Bay News. Similar incidents have happened in other Maine communities.

Poupore said that SURJ is not currently making any specific demands of legislators to address the growing neo-Nazi activity, but the group is looking to the leadership of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Maine Tribal Populations and will support policies and solutions that the commission advocates for. The Permanent Commission is an independent government entity that was established by the Maine Legislature in 2019 to address structural racism in the state. The commission is headed by Maine Speaker of the House Rachel Talbot Ross and Penobscot Nation Ambassador Maulian Bryant.

The rally featured remarks from two members of Saco City Council, Jodi MacPhail and Michael Burman. Burman, the first lawmaker to speak, said he was “sad but not surprised that we had to hold an anti-hate rally.” He offered a sweeping analysis of America’s ailing economic system, arguing that rampant wealth inequity is a key driver of hate and far right extremism.

“What we have is the have nots fighting amongst each other for resources rather than fighting the real cause of this injustice. It’s that fear of not having enough that leads to hate and leads to the rise of fascism,” he said.

State Senator Henry Ingwersen, who represents Arundel and Biddeford, implored listeners to remember the community’s local history —
“both the bad and the good.” He invoked a 1924 episode in which Biddeford residents confronted KKK members on the bridge between Biddeford and Saco, mere meters away from where Sunday’s rally took place.

According to the Biddeford Cultural and Heritage Center, “in an early show of unity and community, stories tell that the Irish of Biddeford banded with the Franco-Americans and blocked the Bradbury Bridge, while the French blocked the Main Street Bridge … According to the reported history, the Klan was targeting the Franco-Americans of Biddeford. The angry Irish and Franco-Americans were enough to prevent the Klan from attempting to cross the bridges and they turned in retreat.”


The Biddeford Cultural and Heritage Center also notes that in general the Klan was very active in Maine during the 1920s, targeting Catholics, Jews and people of color. Today, Maine is the whitest state in the country, according to the 2020 census.

Biddeford resident Rodney Mashia performed music at the beginning and of the event, and reflected on his experience being Black in a racially homogenous Maine.

“Me and my partner, we used to play this game … I called it ‘count the Black people,'” he said, recounting how for many years he would often be the only person of color in public spaces, such as at a restaurant or the beach.

“These days, we’re everywhere,” he said, referencing the community’s growing racial diversity. “I believe that people come to where the good energy is, and here in Biddeford, we’ve created an open, inviting environment. I think people are drawn to that.”


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