Maine insurance agency faces online backlash after racist Juneteenth sign


Google Earth view of Reed Company in Millinocket, Maine.

Google Earth

An insurance coverage company in Millinocket, Maine, is dealing with on-line backlash after a photograph circulated on Fb of an indication taped to the enterprise’s door on Monday saying, “Juneteenth ~it is no matter… We’re closed. Get pleasure from your fried hen & collard greens.”

The picture of the signal on the Harry E. Reed Insurance coverage Company, an affiliate of nationwide insurer Progressive, was initially shared by a Facebook user named Alura Stillwagon, with the caption, “The racism in Millinocket is actual.” The unique put up has been shared greater than 200 occasions, although the same put up by a distinct person has been shared greater than 10,000 occasions.

“I am not offended. Anger will get you nowhere. I am simply deeply, deeply disillusioned,” another Facebook user, Ken Anderson, commented on the post. “On this enterprise, within the firms that permit this enterprise dealer their merchandise, and within the city of Millinocket, within the state of Maine, and the entire rattling nation. Deeply disillusioned. Why? As a result of I do know we will do higher. However we’re not making an attempt. And that is the half that cuts deepest.”

For a lot of companies, Monday marked the observance of Juneteenth, a federal vacation that commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union Military troopers arrived in Texas and introduced the tip of slavery to greater than 250,000 Black individuals who remained enslaved even after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, according to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The insurance coverage company didn’t reply to CNBC’s requests for remark, however Melanie Higgins instructed News Center Maine she was the worker who posted the signal and apologized.

“I’d by no means purposely got down to harm anybody and I’d by no means purposely got down to harm my mother’s enterprise in any respect. She had nothing to do with this,” Higgins mentioned. “I really apologize.”

Because the picture of the signal started circulating on-line, folks have taken to on-line overview web site Yelp to sentence the insurance coverage company, prompting Yelp to disable users’ ability to put up on the corporate’s web page.

“This enterprise lately obtained elevated public consideration leading to an inflow of individuals posting their views to this web page, so we’ve got briefly disabled the power to put up right here as we work to analyze the content material,” an alert on the Harry E. Reed Insurance coverage Company’s Yelp web page reads. “Whereas racism has no place on Yelp and we unequivocally reject racism or discrimination in any kind, all evaluations on Yelp should replicate an precise first-hand shopper expertise (even when which means disabling the power for customers to specific factors of view we’d agree with).”

The company obtained practically 90 — largely one-star — Yelp evaluations, with many posters condemning the insurance coverage company as “racist.”

Jeff Sibel, a spokesperson for Progressive, mentioned in a press release, “We’re conscious and appalled by the signal lately posted on the Harry E Reed Company and are terminating our relationship with the company.”

“At Progressive, Variety, Fairness and Inclusion (DEI) are basic to our Core Values. We’re dedicated to creating an surroundings the place our folks really feel welcomed, valued and revered and anticipate that anybody representing Progressive to participate on this dedication. The signal is in direct violation of that dedication and would not align with our firm’s Core Values and Code of Conduct,” Sibel mentioned in a press release.

The chair of the Millinocket City Council, Steve Golieb, released a statement Tuesday denouncing the signal.

“It’s deeply saddening, disgraceful and unacceptable for any individual, enterprise or group to try to make mild of Juneteenth and what it represents for tens of millions of slaves and their dwelling descendants,” Golieb wrote. “There is no such thing as a place within the City of Millinocket for such a blatant disregard of human decency.”

President Joe Biden and the state of Maine each signed bills into legislation in June 2021 recognizing Juneteenth as a federal and state vacation.

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