Extremists not welcome

Bangor Daily News

Maine is often thought of as a fairly moderate place. In the 2020 election, for example, the state voted for Democrat Joe Biden in the presidential race and for Republican Susan Collins in the U.S. Senate race. That built on a tradition of electing politically moderate, even “non-ideological” leaders.

Why, then, does a middle-of-the-road state seem to be a popular destination for extremists lately?

On the Fourth of July weekend, 11 heavily armed individuals had an hours-long standoff on a highway in Massachusetts. Details are still emerging but, we’ve since learned they were part of a militia group called Rise of the Moors. As BDN reporter Lia Russell explained, the group “shares some beliefs with both the sovereign citizen movement and Moorish Science, a religion that advocates for both Black nationalism and some tenets of the Nation of Islam.” The Moorish Science Temple of America has denounced Rise of the Moors.

Members of the militia group say they were on their way to Maine, specifically to the Bangor area, where they were “going to train.” And according to police in Massachusetts, these individuals “don’t recognize our laws.”

In statements and on their website, the group has pushed back against some attempts to describe and define them.

“We are not anti-government. We are not anti-police, we are not sovereign citizens, we’re not Black identity extremists,” said one member, as reported by USA Today. “As specified multiple times to the police that we are abiding by the peaceful journey laws of the United States.”

But actions speak louder than words. They were driving vehicles with unregistered Maine plates. The charges against them include illegal possession of firearms, illegal possession of large-capacity firearms, improperly storing firearms, providing false information to police, conspiracy to improperly stow firearms and wearing body armor during the commission of a felony.

This alarming and developing story followed reporting that a neo-Nazi and his followers on a far-right social media platform have been looking to relocate to Maine in hopes of forming a white ethnostate.

We can’t echo enough that Maine needs to welcome people from different places, with different backgrounds and different beliefs. But “The Way Life Should Be” should not involve hateful ideology or a refusal to recognize the laws of the society we all live in.

In 2019, then-newly inaugurated Gov. Janet Mills added a sign on the Maine turnpike just after the New Hampshire border that reads “Maine welcome home.” We appreciate the inclusive message. But there are some things that Maine should not be home to. This is not indoctrination-land. Sovereign citizens and supremacists alike should Diri-go-somewhere else.

To be fair, Maine is no stranger to the sovereign citizen movement, or to racism. But we should denounce these forces and certainly don’t need to become home to any more of them.

It is important to note that the Rise of the Moors members have ultimately been held in Massachusetts because of their actions, not their beliefs. We’re in no way suggesting people should be detained or denied entry to Maine because their beliefs are considered extreme. We’re talking about pushing back against these ideologies, not prohibiting them.

Recognizing America’s laws and the humanity of others should be pretty low bars. Maybe that’s just us, but we don’t think that’s a particularly extreme thing to say.