Maine insurance agency faces online backlash after June 19 racist sign

Google Earth view of Reed’s office in Millinocket, Maine.

Google Earth

A Millinocket, Maine insurance agency is facing online backlash after a photo of a sign taped to the company’s door surfaced on Facebook Monday that read, “Juneteenth ~ this is n whatever… We’re closed. Enjoy your fried chicken and collard greens.”

The image of the sign for Harry E. Reed Insurance Agency, a subsidiary of national insurer Progressive, was originally shared by a Facebook user named Alura Stillwagon, with the caption “Racism in Millinocket is real”. The original post has been shared over 100 times.

The insurance agency did not respond to CNBC’s requests for comment.

“I’m not angry. Anger gets you nowhere. I’m just deeply, deeply disappointed,” fellow Facebook user Ken Anderson commented on the post. “In this company, in companies that let this company negotiate their products, and in the town of Millinocket, Maine, and across the country. Deeply disappointed. Why? Because I know we can do better . But we “I’m not trying. And that’s the part that touches the most deeply.”

For many businesses, Monday marked the celebration of Juneteenth, a federal holiday that commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union Army soldiers arrived in Texas and announced the end of slavery to over 250,000 blacks who remained enslaved even after the emancipation was signed. Proclamation in 1863, according to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Since the image of the sign began circulating online, people have taken to online review site Yelp to condemn the insurance agency, prompting Yelp to disable users’ ability to post on the page. of the company.

“This business has recently received increased public attention, which has resulted in an influx of people posting their opinions to this page, so we’ve temporarily disabled the ability to post here while we work to investigate the content,” an alert on Harry E. Reed Insurance Agency. The Yelp page reads. “While racism has no place on Yelp, and we unequivocally reject racism or discrimination in any form, all reviews on Yelp should reflect a genuine, first-hand consumer experience (even if that means disabling the ability for users to express views we might agree with).”

The agency has received nearly 90 Yelp reviews – largely one star – with many posters condemning the insurance agency as “racist”.

Jeff Sibel, spokesperson for Progressive, said in a statement: ‘We are aware of and appalled by the recently posted sign at Harry E Reed Agency and are terminating our relationship with the agency.

“At Progressive, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is fundamental to our Core Values. We are committed to creating an environment where our employees feel welcomed, valued and respected and expect anyone representing Progressive to it participates in this Pledge, is in direct violation of this Pledge and is inconsistent with our Company’s Core Values ​​and Code of Conduct,” Sibel said in a statement.

Millinocket City Council Speaker Steve Golieb released a statement on Tuesday denouncing the sign.

“It is deeply saddening, shameful and unacceptable for any person, company or organization to attempt to shed light on Juneteenth and what it means to millions of slaves and their living descendants,” Golieb wrote. “There is no place in the town of Millinocket for such blatant disregard for human decency.”

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

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