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Racist Juneteenth sign at Maine insurance agency sparks outrage

A racist sign about Juneteenth hung on the front door of an insurance company in Millinocket, Maine sparked viral internet outrage, condemnation from city leaders and an apology from a person affiliated with the company.

The sign posted on the window of the Harry E. Reed insurance agency on Monday read: ‘Juneteenth ~ this is nonsense … We are closed. Enjoy your fried chicken and collard greens.

The note explained why the business was closed on June 16, the country’s newest federal holiday long celebrated by black Americans to commemorate the first emancipation of slaves in Texas in 1865.

Lisa Groelly, who photographed the sign, said she was at work when a colleague called and told her about it. Her first reaction was “disbelief,” she said, so she went to the agency to see it for herself.

“It was shocking,” she said. “I came back and was telling my colleague about it, and we were really shocked. We were amazed at the sheer ignorance and stupidity of this one.

Groelly sent the photos to her daughter, Alura Stillwagon, who posted them to Facebook on Monday with the caption “Racism in Millinocket is real.” Another photo of the sign exploded on social media website Reddit, with over 2,000 upvotes.

A woman named Melanie Higgins took responsibility for the sign in a letter posted to Facebook on Wednesday. She apologized for “any misunderstandings and hurt” caused by her “usual and sneaky office closing signs and content”. Higgins, who said in the letter that she was multiracial, said she understood the “seriousness of intolerance” and that the sign had a “seemingly flippant tone”.

“I am so sorry for any pain I have caused and the negative attention it has brought to our beautiful community,” Higgins wrote.

Amid widespread criticism of the brand, Allstate Insurance terminated its relationship with the company for violating its code of conduct, a spokesperson confirmed to NBC News. Progressive Insurance also ended its relationship with the agency in recent days for violating its code of conduct, CNBC reported. A progressive spokesperson said in a statement to CNBC that the company was “aware of and appalled by the sign.”

The outrage was so bitter that it prompted another Maine insurance agency with a similar name to issue a statement highlighting its lack of involvement in the incident.

In a statement Tuesday, Millinocket City Council Speaker Steve Golieb called any “attempt to shed light on Juneteenth” and what the holiday represents “deeply saddening, shameful and unacceptable.”

“There is no place in the town of Millinocket for such blatant disregard for human decency,” Golieb said.

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