Maine's Governor Openly Calls for Race War Against People of Color
Calls are mounting for Maine Republican governor Paul LePage to resign after he doubled down Friday on openly racist statements he made by calling for a race war against people of color.
LePage made the remarks during a press conference at which he sought to defend himself against accusations of racism. During those comments, he indicated that people of color are the enemy and should be shot.
“A bad guy is a bad guy,” he said. “I don’t care what color he is. When you go to war, if you know the enemy, the enemy dresses in red and you dress in blue, you shoot at red… You shoot at the enemy. You try to identify the enemy. And the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority of people coming in are people of color or people of Hispanic origin.”
Those remarks followed statements last Wednesday at a town hall meeting in North Berwick, where the governor stated:
Let me tell you this, let me tell you, explain to you: I made the comment that black people are trafficking in our state. Now, ever since I said that comment, I’ve been collecting every single drug dealer who has been arrested in our state …
I don’t ask them to come to Maine and sell their poison, but they come. And I will tell you that 90-plus percent of those pictures in my book, and it’s a three-ring binder, are black and Hispanic people from Waterbury, Connecticut, the Bronx and Brooklyn. I didn’t make the rules, I’m just telling you what’s happening.
Yet LePage's claims are incorrect. Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups in the United States, told AlterNet, “On top of everything else, LePage is making a claim that is simply false. The fact is that most drug dealers and consumers in the United States are white.”
On Thursday, the Maine ACLU filed a public records request demanding access to the "three-ring binder" LePage referenced.
LePage lashed out in response to public outcry and even objections from some Maine lawmakers. Following a news report that Democratic State Rep. Drew Gattine had criticized the governor’s remarks, LePage left a violent rant on the lawmaker’s voicemail, saying:
Mr. Gattine, this is Gov. Paul Richard LePage. I would like to talk to you about your comments about my being a racist, you c**ksucker. I want to talk to you. I want you to prove that I’m a racist. I’ve spent my life helping black people and you little son of a bitch, socialist c**ksucker. You… I need you to… just friggin’. I want you to record this and make it public because I am after you. Thank you.
He appeared to threaten Gattine's life in remarks made later to the Portland Press Herald, in which he declared: "When a snot-nosed little guy from Westbrook calls me a racist, now I’d like him to come up here because, tell you right now, I wish it were 1825. And we would have a duel. That’s how angry I am. And I would not put my gun in the air, I guarantee you; I would not be [Alexander] Hamilton. I would point it right between his eyes, because he is a snot-nosed little runt and he has not done a damn thing since he’s been in this legislature to help move the state forward."
This is not the first time LePage has made openly racist or violent statements. In January, he blamed the state’s opioid epidemic on "guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty," who are from New York and Connecticut and "half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave." And in 2011, LePage told the Maine NAACP to “kiss my butt.”
According to the SPLC's Potok, LePage’s latest comments are “par for the course. He has made plain his antipathy to black people. To me, his latest remarks are utterly unsurprising. Are they racist statements? Yes.”
Teddy Burrage, a community activist and participant in Black Lives Matter protests who has organized with the Portland, Maine Racial Justice Congress, told AlterNet that LePage is “putting people in danger. It’s not just a political gaffe or something that came about because he is unstable. The governor has potentially empowered dangerous people to hurt people of color.”
On Saturday night, Democratic leaders in the legislature wrote a letter to their Republican counterparts calling on them to rebuke the governor’s statements and press him either to get help or resign. The letter states that LePage “appears to be unfit to hold office at this time.”
Burrage cautioned, “It would be easy to say Paul LePage is crazy or unstable, but the reality is that he is a manifestation of the people who put him in office. This is an issue in the governor’s office, but it’s a larger issue as far as racism being acceptable.”
While Donald Trump-style racism may embolden figures like LePage, Burrage emphasized that the Maine governor's racism predates the 2016 presidential election cycle. "It's doesn't feel new to me," said Burrage, "and I am not shocked."