Maine Insurance Company Receives Backlash After Posting Racist Juneteenth Sign
"Juneteenth ~it's whatever... We're closed. Enjoy your fried chicken & collard greens," the sign read.
by Kui Mwai
June 22, 2022 at 7:53 pm
An insurance company in Millinocket, Maine, is receiving backlash online after it displayed a racist sign regarding Juneteenth, NPR reports.
“Juneteenth ~it’s whatever… We’re closed. Enjoy your fried chicken & collard greens,” the sign read in large letters.
The sign was posted on the front of Harry E. Reed Insurance Agency on Monday. Millinocket resident Alura Stillwagon posted a picture of the sign on Facebook.
“The racism in Millinocket is real,” she wrote in the caption.
Stillwagon told NPR that she first heard about the sign from her mother, Lisa Groelly, and that she was shocked.
“I had to read it more than once because I thought it was something [my mom] saw on Facebook. But when she said it was a business [in town], I was immediately disgusted,” Stillwagon told NPR. “People have this idea that Maine isn’t very racist and that it’s pretty liberal. But up north, it’s not like that at all.”
Groelly said she learned about the sign from a friend. Like her daughter, she was appalled.
“I’m hoping that people will wake up and realize that this is not OK. People need to know their history,” she said in an interview with NPR. “They need to realize that there was a lot of suffering and that this holiday is warranted — and it’s needed.”
Along with some Millinocket residents, viewers on social media were disgusted by the insurance company’s sign. They took to Twitter to express their outrage and show that while Juneteenth is finally a federal holiday, we still have a long way to go as a country.
“Reed Insurance Agency in Millinocket Maine is absolutely wild for this one. This racism is out of control. Be better,” one viewer tweeted.
“Calling on citizens of Millinocket, Maine to dump the Harry E. Reed Insurance Agency! This is a racist agency and should not be rewarded with your hard earned money! Find a new insurance company,” another added.
Some people called out Progressive, Reed Insurance Agency’s affiliate, following news of the sign.
“@progressive Are you aware that The Reed Agency of Millinocket ME is overtly #Racists & posted something so vile on their business? As an agency representing Progressive Insurance, you should address this!! @WMTWTV @WGME @PressHerald @bangordailynews,” one Twitter user wrote.
“I guess in #Millinocket, #Maine, this @progressive insurance agent, isn’t. Sorry @ItsFlo,” another tweeted.
Jeff Sibel, a spokesperson for Progressive, addressed the incident in an email to NPR. He said the company is “aware and appalled by the sign,” and that it is ending its relationship with the Maine insurance agency.
“At Progressive, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) are fundamental to our Core Values. We’re committed to creating an environment where our people feel welcomed, valued and respected and expect that anyone representing Progressive to take part in this commitment,” he wrote. “The sign is in direct violation of that commitment and doesn’t align with our company’s Core Values and Code of Conduct.”
Chair of the Millinocket Town Council, Steve Golieb, released a statement about the sign as well.
“It is deeply saddening, disgraceful and unacceptable for any person, business or organization to attempt to make light of Juneteenth and what it represents for millions of slaves and their living descendants,” he said. “There is no place in the Town of Millinocket for such a blatant disregard of human decency.”