Earlier this month, a group called the “Nationalist Social Club 131” held a neo-nazi march in downtown Portland, Maine, which ended in violence on the steps of Portland’s city hall.
The group was seen throughout the city’s downtown making Nazi salutes and holding a sign reading “Defend White Communities.” They have been known to target LGBTQ+, Jewish and anti-facist communities.
According to Maine Public, people holding a pride flag were verbally and physically assaulted by the group and limited police action was taken. The interim Portland police chief, Heath Gorham, cites his department’s lack of response as not wanting to take sides and protecting the First Amendment.
But according to The Fire, while the First Amendment covers most speech, it should not be used as an excuse to defend violent and offensive behavior. If this march was just a march, it might not be as big of a deal. But it wasn’t just a march. It ended with enacting violence on others and that is where action should have been taken.
In 2021, Portland was ranked the most diverse city in Maine. People from minority communities are speaking out against these protests and addressing the fear that they feel living in their own city after this march and nothing being done to stop it.
To show their disapproval of the limited action done by police, more than 100 Portland citizens protested in front of the Portland Police Department and spoke at the city council meeting. We need police officers in our Maine cities that will protect citizens and make sure their first priority is the safety of their citizens.
There shouldn’t be any city where people feel unsafe in the place they live. If police had done their job at the scene of the violent outbreak and identified those engaged in the violence, it would set a precedent for the future.
According to the same Maine Public article, police were at the scene but have not released body cam or surveillance of the events. A man that was knocked to the ground during the event says that the police at the scene should be fired for not taking appropriate actions against the hate group.
If police are going to defend their choices by hiding behind the First Amendment, it should be acknowledged that these assaults go way beyond that. The First Amendment does not incorporate acts of violence under the umbrella of free speech.
Unfortunately, this lack of action now sets a precedent that these harmful actions are tolerated and it’s okay for both current and future groups to act in this way. It presents Portland as a place where these views are accepted. In reality, seen through the large group of people that showed up against these protests, these views are not accepted by Portland citizens and the police department should reflect this.
Hate groups like these cannot be allowed to continue to terrorize communities. But as long as this lenience from the police continues, so will the hate.