Google Earth view of RED Agency in Millinocket, Maine.
An insurance agency in Millinocket, Maine, is facing a backlash online after posting a Facebook photo of a sign taped to the company’s door on Monday that said, “Juneteenth~ It’s anything…we’re closed. Enjoy fried chicken and collard greens…”
The image of the banner at Harry E. Reed Insurance Agency, a subsidiary of Progressive National Insurance, was originally shared by Facebook user Alura Stillwagon, with the caption “Millinocket racism is real.” The original post has been shared over 100 times.
The insurance agency did not respond to CNBC’s requests for comment.
Another Facebook user, Ken Anderson, commented on the post: “I’m not angry. Anger doesn’t get you anywhere. I am very disappointed.” “In this business, in companies that have allowed this business to broker their products, in Millinocket town, in Maine, and in the whole country. So frustrated. Why? Because I know we can do better. But we’re not trying. And that’s the deeper part.” .
For many companies, Monday marked Juneteenth, a federal holiday commemorating June 19, 1865, when Union Army soldiers arrived in Texas and declared the end of slavery for more than 250,000 blacks who remained enslaved even after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Advertised in 1863, according to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Since the banner image began circulating online, people have taken to online review site Yelp to denounce the insurance agency, prompting Yelp to disable users’ ability to post on the company’s page.
“This business has recently received increased public attention which has resulted in an influx of people posting their opinions on this page, so we have temporarily disabled the ability to post here while we work on investigating the content,” an alert on the Harry E. Reed Insurance Agency reads the Yelp page. “While there is no place for racism on Yelp and we categorically reject racism or discrimination in any way, all reviews on Yelp must reflect an actual consumer experience (even if it means disabling users’ ability to express their views, we may agree with) .”
The agency has received nearly 90 reviews—largely one star—on Yelp, with several posters denouncing the insurance agency as “racist.”
“We are aware and horrified of the recently published banner at Harry E. Red Agency and are ending our relationship with the agency,” Progressive spokesperson Jeff Seibel said in a statement.
“At Progressive, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is central to our core values. We are committed to creating an environment in which our employees feel welcome, valued and respected and we expect anyone representing progress to engage in this commitment. “This commitment directly violates and is not aligned with with our company’s core values and code of conduct.
Millinocket City Council Mayor Steve Julep released a statement Tuesday denouncing the sign.
“It is deeply sad, shameful and unacceptable that any person, company or organization should attempt to shed light on Juneteenth and what it represents to millions of slaves and their living descendants,” Julep wrote. “There is no place in Millinocket Town for such a blatant disregard for humanistic literature.”
President Joe Biden and Maine signed two bills in June 2021 recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday and a state holiday.