Residents reject flyer left by supremacists

Portland police are still investigating the newsletter left in Deering and North Deering targeting Jews and people of color.
Portland Press Herald, Apr. 16, 2003
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Residents in Deering and North Deering said Tuesday that they won’t be intimidated by the renewed presence of a white supremacy group, World Church of the Creator.

Many residents in the Portland neighborhoods awoke Sunday morning to find an unfamiliar newsletter, wrapped in pink plastic, next to their morning paper. The newsletter targeted Jews and people of color, and featured a photo of the destruction of the World Trade Center, with a Star of David superimposed over the towers.

After leafing through the materials, Peter Rogers was concerned first for his neighbors across the street, at Temple Beth El. Rogers said the neighborhood has never had such a problem in the time he’s lived there.

“There is a mild level of unease, because there are people like this who have done violent things in the past,” he said.

Rabbi Carolyn Braun said a member of the temple’s staff notified Portland police on Sunday afternoon. While she is a firm believer in freedom of speech, Braun questions how someone can live with so much hate for people they do not know personally.

“It’s tragic that someone can live with that hatred,” she said. “But we won’t tolerate it, we can’t tolerate it.”

She said a few members had contacted the temple with concerns about the material. Braun said she has faith in the understanding and tolerance of the people of Greater Portland.

She pointed to the support that Somalis received earlier this year when the World Church of the Creator and the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group, held a rally in Lewiston.

Somalis were also the subject of a one-page sheet in the newsletter that specifically outlined the burdens and other costs that refugees in Lewiston place on Mainers.

Thom Harnett, Maine’s assistant attorney general for civil rights education and enforcement, said groups such as the World Church of the Creator have been relatively silent since the events in Lewiston in January.

“We do hope, and think, that this is just a handful of people, and it does not represent a groundswell, and certainly does not represent what most Mainers think,” he said.

Harnett said it can be difficult for individuals to stay calm if they feel they are personally being threatened by someone, directly or indirectly.

Portland Police Chief Michael Chitwood said the department is not certain why the white supremacy group began circulating more literature, or why it chose the Deering area.

Chitwood said police will continue to investigate the incident, but he made it clear that the individuals responsible have broken no laws.

“I would have hoped, because of the reaction they got in Lewiston, that they would have given up by now,” Nancy Montgomery said.

On Tuesday, Montgomery and Jack Vreelind said they were certain that the messages were coming from outside of the community. The two have lived in the neighborhood for more than 12 years.

“They could throw whatever they want in my yard,” Vreelind said. “It’ll all end up in the trash probably.”

The couple were out walking their dog Sunday morning when they noticed pink plastic bundles blowing across Deering Avenue.

Montgomery, thinking they were another local newsletter, gathered some and threw them back on their intended lawns.

Brad Blake, another longtime resident in the Deering area, said he believes the neighborhood is still safe and hopes that neighborhood associations and the City Council will continue to speak out against intolerance.

“It seems like a cowardly way of exercising their First Amendment rights,” said Blake.


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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday April 17, 2003.
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