WATERVILLE — A resident Tuesday night received a standing ovation and extended applause from a packed City Council chamber after he urged city officials and residents to speak out against bias.

Phil Bofia, who is African American, said he was present to address a “disgusting and despicable act” happening around the state — increased activity by the Ku Klux Klan.

Bofia said KKK fliers showed up in Waterville neighborhoods and elsewhere in the state, and as an African American, he is concerned.

He said the reason he stayed in Maine after attending University of Maine was the welcoming nature of the people in the state and the safety the state provides for people, but that safety is now being challenged by the resurgence of KKK activity.

Last weekend, Bofia’s 8-year-old daughter came inside their home after playing with friends and said an old woman in a white vehicle was taking photographs of their home, he said.

At first, he did not think it a big deal; but then another woman took photos, and he started wondering if she were a member of the KKK.

“What if she was surveilling my house?” he said, wondering aloud if he and his family were being observed.

“Now, ask yourselves, how would you feel if that was your child — your family?”

Bofia said that he believes everyone has the duty to speak out against bias, regardless of their backgrounds. He thanked councilors Lauren Lessing, D-Ward 3, and Winifred Tate, D-Ward 6, for being part of a protest last week in the community and urged everyone to speak out against “despicable behavior.”

After Bofia received a standing ovation, Tate noted that Councilor Jackie Dupont, D-Ward 7, also attended the protest.

Following Bofia’s comments, several residents stood to urge councilors to hold the tax rate at $22.80 per $1,000 worth of assessed property value; several others urged the council not to cut funding to schools, saying education is important and when people look at possibly moving into the city, they look at the quality of education.

Before Ward 4 resident Norton Webber urged the council to decrease the budget by $1 million a year over 15 years and ask Colby College to kick in $2.5 million a year, he addressed Bofia to lend his support.

“You see the reaction tonight,” Webber said. “These are folks that love you.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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