AUGUSTA — A new batch of fliers showed up in Augusta’s Sand Hill neighborhood Wednesday morning, two days after fliers purporting to be for a Ku Klux Klan “neighborhood watch” were left on some of the same city streets.

The sheets of paper taped to utility poles, discovered Wednesday morning, had a vastly different message, however. It appeared to be a response to the KKK fliers, which stated, “You can sleep tonight knowing the Klan is awake.”

The new fliers state: “NO KKK FOR ME!” and “ALL ARE WELCOME HERE!”

Scott Bernier, a Sand Hill resident, said he was “surprised and delighted when I saw these on my morning commute out of my neighborhood, and the positive message they convey.”

He said he was disgusted when he heard the news about the KKK fliers, which stated on them they had been left by the “Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan,” and which urged anyone reading them to contact the KKK if there were “troubles in your neighborhood.” They had a drawing of a hooded figure in a Klan robe flanked by “KKK,” with its letters in flames, on either side, above an American flag.

Bernier said those who know the KKK would know they don’t just target people of color. He noted the KKK, in the early 20th century in Maine, targeted French-Canadian immigrants like his paternal great-grandparents who moved to Waterville from Quebec to work in the mills.

Sand Hill has long been home to a large Franco-American community, but as some of those residents have moved away, it is increasingly becoming home to new immigrants, including families from Iraq.

The Rev. Francis Morin, administrator of St. Michael Catholic Parish, which includes St. Augustine Church on Sand Hill, said he thinks the presence of immigrant families in the neighborhood probably was why the KKK fliers were left in that part of the city.

When told of the new fliers posted around the neighborhood Wednesday, he said they were a welcome change from the KKK fliers left Monday.

“It’s a very positive response, to compete with the angry crowd,” Morin said. “I’m sure, with the outrage out there, it’s nice to have a much more positive message.”

Mayor David Rollins was pleased to learn of the new fliers and said he concurs with their message.

He said the messages of the first fliers “have no place at all in our society. They’re based in hate and the desire to spread fear. I was very disappointed those would show up. It wasn’t long ago, I thought that had kind of run its course in our society.”

The same KKK fliers reportedly also were found Monday in Freeport, Gardiner and Topsham. They were left in people’s driveways, in plastic bags weighted down with pebbles.

Rollins said he doesn’t think the fliers were produced and distributed by someone from Augusta.

“I don’t feel like they came from our community. Augusta has always been an open and welcoming community,” Rollins said. “It doesn’t represent us.”

He said they’re another sign that civility is, increasingly, lacking in today’s society, and at all levels of government. He said he doesn’t have any specific person in mind, just that civility in public discourse seems to have decreased in recent years.

“When the leaders of local, state or national government behave in a very uncivil and rude manner, I think it sets the tone for citizens and brings out the worst in people,” Rollins said. “I think it’s time those of us that believe in civility start standing up and bringing attention to how far we’ve gone in the wrong direction, and work to improve that. I’d ask all citizens, from all walks of life, to practice civility, and treat everybody with dignity. We can all have different opinions, but this should be a country where we recognize and solve problems together.”

Police Chief Robert Gregoire said police received some calls from residents who got Monday’s KKK fliers but he said it appears no crime occurred other than, potentially, littering.

As a result, he said Wednesday, police are not investigating it.

“No crime occurred, so we’re not looking into that,” Gregoire said. “There were no threats made. It’s just freedom of speech.”

He said police did not receive any calls reporting the new fliers left in the neighborhood Wednesday.

Freeport police Chief Susan Nourse said Wednesday police there received no reports of additional fliers being found in that town.

She also said no additional information had been discovered regarding the KKK fliers found Monday.

She said distributing the flier doesn’t constitute a hate crime because it’s largely informational, so it qualifies as protected free speech. She said she would report the incident to the state attorney general’s office, but her department no longer would be investigating unless someone reported being threatened directly by the group’s literature or members.

Tim Feeley, spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said Monday that while the views espoused by the KKK are abhorrent, the fliers alone don’t violate Maine’s Civil Rights Act.

Morin said he believes there is a connection between the KKK fliers and the ban on accepting immigrants from seven countries where Muslims make up a majority of population, instituted recently under executive order by President Donald Trump. He said when powerful people advocate for closing off the country’s borders to Muslims, it helps feed prejudice in society.

A new message went up Wednesday on St. Augustine Church’s marquee alongside Northern Avenue, repeating a quote from Pope Francis: “Jesus was a refugee.”

Morin said church officials decided to put that message up on the marquee after Trump announced a temporary ban on immigrants from the seven countries over the weekend, but they didn’t get around to putting it up until Tuesday afternoon.

The KKK, a secretive society organized in the South after the Civil War to assert white supremacy, has a long history of violence against blacks, immigrants, Jews and other groups.

In November an Appleton woman reported finding a sandwich bag that contained a flier from the KKK in her driveway. A Knox County sheriff’s deputy investigated that incident but determined no crime had been committed.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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