Recent incidents in Bangor, Biddeford, Hallowell, Portland and South Portland have laid bare an unsettling truth: No community is immune from the insidious reach of hate. These unprovoked attacks, which have targeted our friends, neighbors and leaders based on race, religion, sexual orientation and more, remind us of the latent prejudices that, while often concealed, are increasingly manifesting openly in our state. They serve as a stark reminder that across communities in Maine, the need for vigilance against hate is ever-present.

Portland Mayor Kate Snyder delivers the annual State of the City address in council chambers in October. Snyder said she frequently has to mute people who call in to City Council meetings via Zoom during public comment periods, then spew hate speech and harass council members. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

While our city councils and public meetings have emerged as pivotal spaces for addressing and challenging prejudice, it is the unity in response that showcases the true spirit of our state. From Bangor City Councilor Cara Pelletier’s stern rebuke of hate speech during a Bangor council meeting to Hallowell City Manager Gary Lamb’s unambiguous denunciation of such distasteful acts in Hallowell, our municipal leaders are resoundingly clear: Intolerance and hatred have no place in our communities.

This shared resilience against hate reflects our core values of respect, understanding and inclusion. While our elected officials might differ on policy and approach, their unanimous condemnation of hate speech, antisemitism, racism and homophobia underscores a united commitment to these principles that define us.

However, condemnation is only the first step. It is time we take proactive measures to curtail such incidents in the future:

• Enhanced virtual protocols: As “Zoom-bombing” becomes a tactic for
those who wish to disrupt, municipalities should consider enhanced 
screening and moderating procedures for virtual participants.

• Legal consequences: Collaborate with local law enforcement to ensure
that those perpetrating hate speech or other forms of harassment face 
legal repercussions, emphasizing that hate will not be tolerated.


• Community-wide education: Initiatives to foster understanding and dismantle biases should be amplified. These could range from workshops, community dialogues and partnerships with organizations that specialize in combating hate.

• Transparent reporting: Establishing a transparent mechanism for reporting incidents of hate can act as a deterrent while also offering a support system for those affected.

• Celebrating diversity: Events that celebrate the diversity of our communities can act as powerful counterpoints to the narrative of hate, emphasizing unity, understanding and acceptance.
It is an unsettling reality that, even as we delve deeper into the 21st century, we remain entangled with some of humanity’s darkest societal constructs. But every hate-fueled flyer, every discriminatory outburst at a council meeting and every act meant to sow division also reveals the strong, united fabric of Maine communities that rise in response.

In this united stand, we find hope. It is a reminder that while hatred might be loud, the collective voice of a community that stands together in love, respect and solidarity will always drown it out.

To the perpetrators of these acts, understand this: Maine communities stand united against hate. You may test our resolve, but our spirit, built on community and shared respect, will not waver. While we wish these matters were relics of our past, the present moment demands our collective voice. We will meet hate not with fear but with unity, resilience and a shared commitment to the values that define us.

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