2 insurance coverage firms finish relationship with Maine company after racist Juneteenth signal

Up to date June 22, 2022 at 5:56 PM ET

Residents within the city of Millinocket, Maine, say they’re outraged and upset after an area insurance coverage company displayed a racist signal remarking on the Juneteenth vacation. Progressive and Allstate are terminating their relationships with the company, in line with representatives of the insurance coverage firms.

“Juneteenth ~it is no matter… We’re closed. Take pleasure in your fried hen & collard greens,” the signal said in a big font. It was taped to the entrance of Harry E. Reed Insurance coverage Company in Millinocket on Monday. The small city sits about three hours outdoors Portland and a few 50 miles away from the U.S.-Canada border.

A picture of the racist signal was shared on-line Monday, gaining the eye of hundreds throughout social media.

The insurance coverage company has confronted heavy criticism on-line, with individuals leaving one-star opinions on Google and Yelp, a few of which have since been eliminated.

One evaluate written on Yelp says: “@Progressive – is that this actually an organization that you really want representing you? Or is Progressive an organization that believes in racism?”

Progressive spokesperson Jeff Sibel wrote in an e mail that the corporate is “conscious and appalled by the signal” and that it’s terminating its 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 individuals really feel welcomed, valued and revered and count on that anybody representing Progressive to participate on this dedication,” Sibel wrote. “The signal is in direct violation of that dedication and would not align with our firm’s Core Values and Code of Conduct.”

The Harry E. Reed Insurance coverage Company didn’t reply to NPR’s request for remark.

Millinocket resident Alura Stillwagon initially posted the picture on Fb with a caption studying, “The racism in Millinocket is actual.”

Stillwagon, who first heard concerning the signal from her mom, Lisa Groelly, says she needed to do a double take when seeing a picture of it.

“I needed to learn it greater than as soon as as a result of I believed it was one thing [my mom] noticed on Fb. However when she mentioned it was a enterprise [in town], I used to be instantly disgusted,” Stillwagon informed NPR. “Individuals have this concept that Maine is not very racist and that it is fairly liberal. However up north, it is not like that in any respect.”

Groelly, who lives in Millinocket, says when her pal informed her concerning the signal displayed outdoors the enterprise, she was speechless, pondering it should have been a joke.

“I am hoping that folks will get up and notice that this isn’t OK. Individuals have to know their historical past. They should notice that there was a whole lot of struggling and that this vacation is warranted — and it is wanted,” mentioned Groelly in an interview with NPR.

Steve Golieb, chair of the Millinocket City Council, launched a assertion on Tuesday relating to the incident:

“It’s deeply saddening, disgraceful and unacceptable for any individual, enterprise, or group to try to make gentle of Juneteenth and what it represents for tens of millions of slaves and their dwelling descendants,” Golieb mentioned in his assertion. “There isn’t a place within the City of Millinocket for such a blatant disregard of human decency.”

Allstate mentioned in an announcement to NPR on Wednesday: “We’re terminating our contract with this unbiased agent. Our dedication to Inclusive Variety and Fairness is non-negotiable and we take motion when people violate our code of conduct.”

The state of Maine celebrated Juneteenth as an official vacation for the primary time on Monday. Governor Janet Mills signed a invoice into legislation final yr declaring the annual commemoration a paid state vacation. This month, Mills signed a proclamation declaring June 19 as Juneteenth.

Juneteenth is an annual commemoration celebrated on June 19 that marks the US’ second independence day.

On this present day in 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger — who had fought for the Union — arrived at Galveston, Texas, with almost 2,000 troops to announce that the greater than 250,000 enslaved Black individuals within the state had been lastly free.

President Biden signed a invoice in 2021 to acknowledge Juneteenth as a federal vacation.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see extra, go to https://www.npr.org.

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