New data released by the FBI on Monday show that hate crimes in Maine rose sharply in 2020, part of a national increase that saw the largest reported number of bias-motivated crimes in more than a decade.

In Maine, the number of bias-motivated crimes spiked to 83 incidents in 2020, from only a couple dozen in recent years.

Black people were targeted most frequently, with 32 reported incidents, according to the FBI data. LGBTQ Mainers were the second most targeted group, accounting for 29 incidents. Five attacks were against people perceived to be Jewish and three incidents targeted people perceived to be Asian.

The 83 incidents in 2020 surpass the total number of reported hate crimes in Maine during 2017, 2018 and 2019 combined, a three-year period that saw 71 reported bias-motivated crimes.

It was a year defined by a pandemic that began in China, sparking anti-Asian assaults and public confrontations; a divisive election in which far-right, openly racist and white nationalist groups rose to mainstream prominence; a roiling economy that delivered a gut-punch to many working-class Americans; and a summer marked by the largest social justice, anti-racism demonstrations in generations touched off by the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

Maine Chiefs of Police Association President Roland LaCroix, who leads the University of Maine Police Department, said there is no way to know definitively what drove the increase.


“I can’t get into the head of someone committing crimes,” LaCroix said. “I wish to hell I could, but I can’t. Regardless of what you look like or what you believe, you should never be targeted, ever.”

He declined to offer his opinion on whether the perceived association of COVID-19 with Asian people because the virus was discovered in China might be driving part of the increase. He also declined to offer an opinion on whether the social justice and anti-racism demonstrations following Floyd’s murder last summer could have driven increased attacks against Black people.

“Anything that happens in society plays into your crime stats,” LaCroix said.


Across America, police departments reported 7,759 hate crimes to the FBI, the highest total in one year since 2008, driven by higher offenses against Black people and Asian people.

“Maine is no exception to the national trend showing a rise in hate crimes,” said Alison Beyea, executive director of the ACLU of Maine. “Prejudice, discrimination, and attacks against Black, Asian, LGBTQ+ and other marginalized communities have no place in Maine. All our communities deserve to live freely and without fear. It’s up to all of us to make that happen.”


It is the sixth time in the past seven years that the number of attacks rose, the Washington Post reported. The number of hate crimes reported has increased by nearly 42 percent since 2014, according to federal data, the paper said.

A hate crime is defined as any criminal offense that is motivated in whole or in part by someone’s perceived race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity. Local police departments are responsible for evaluating whether an incident fits the definition. The bias-motivated characteristic is recorded and a total of incidents, along with statistics for many other major crime types, is submitted to the FBI each year for compilation and analysis.

Hate itself is not a crime, and expressing or distributing hateful ideas or materials is protected under the First Amendment, so long as the messages do not incite imminent lawless action or make true threats against the safety of others, along with other narrow limitations.

Maine does not have a separate criminal hate crime statute; the underlying criminal conduct is investigated and prosecuted like any other crime if police are able to establish probable cause to arrest someone. But if police believe someone has violated the Maine Civil Rights Act, a separate civil statute, they can make a referral to the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

The civil rights division of the AG’s office may choose to pursue an injunction through a civil court process. If a judge agrees that the evidence shows someone’s civil rights were violated, the court may issue an injunction and restraining order barring the perpetrator from further harassing or having contact with the victim. Violating the restraining order is a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to a year in jail.



In 2020, the Attorney General’s Office identified three of the 83 cases as being actionable, said Marc Malon, a spokesman for Attorney General Aaron Frey. In each of the three cases, the AG’s office won an injunction against a perpetrator.

In one case, Michael Roylos of Portland accosted a 36-year-old lesbian and called her a derogatory word for a gay person in a Hannaford parking lot after he accused her of driving too fast. When she got out a phone to record him, Roylos allegedly assaulted her. A judge issued a preliminary injunction pending the outcome of his criminal case related to the alleged assault.

In another, Tyler Tripp, 20, of Paris accosted a Black woman after she told him to slow down along a road in Norway where she and a friend were walking. Tripp stopped his vehicle, got out and called the woman a racial slur and threatened to hang her from a tree. When confronted by a Norway police officer, Tripp reiterated his insult and called the victim a “dirty (expletive) (racial slur),” and reiterated his threat to hang her from a tree. Tripp agreed with a judicial order to stay away from the victim.

The third case involved Paul Melanson, 62, of Orono, who defaced a concrete barrier that had been painted with the rainbow colors of the gay pride flag by drawing a circle with a line through it, the universal sign for “no.” When police confronted Melanson about it, he admitted to defacing the barrier and said he would continue to do so and that it was a battle worth fighting. Melanson also agreed to a judicial order forbidding him from further harassment or contact with the victim.

Not every one of the cases reported to the FBI by police becomes an attorney general’s case, Malon said. Action by the state civil rights division requires a known perpetrator, and if no one is identified by police, the office cannot take the case to court, Malon said.



According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are three established hate groups with substantial activity in Maine.

New Albion, in Jackman, is a white separatist organization founded by the former Jackman town manager that advocates for separation of racially different groups into geographic territories, and espouses hatred of Islam and other non-white, non-European ideas and religions.

Another group, Patriot Front, is a local chapter of a national organization of the same name that promotes American fascism and hatred of non-white, non-Christian groups through the use of Nazi imagery and ideas, and often pushes its agenda using patriotic images and nationalistic language, according to the SPLC.

Patriot Front is image-obsessed and uses public propaganda to project its group’s strength, when in many instances, only a few active members may be present in a single city or community, according to Carla Hill, an expert on such groups.

The SPLC also lists the Colchester Collection as being active in Maine. The collection is less an activist group than a resource for them, an online library of 1,400 white nationalist, racist and hate-filled texts, compiled by a Machias man, Russell James, according to a 2019 story in the alternative newspaper The Bollard, now called Mainer.

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