An insurance agency in Maine is getting a ton of attention right now — just probably not the kind they wanted. On Monday (June 20), Harry E. Reed Insurance Agency (a Progressive affiliate in Millinocket) posted a sign in their window to let customers know they were closed in observance of Juneteenth, a new paid state holiday.
Juneteenth is also known as “Freedom Day” since June 19, 1865 commemorates the emancipation of slavery in the United States. The newly approved holiday was honored on June 20 since Juneteenth fell on a Sunday. The way the agency chose to inform their customers of the closure has many upset.
“Juneteenth ~it’s whatever. We’re closed. Enjoy your fried chicken & collard greens,” the sign read.
A photo of the insensitive sign was quickly shared on social media, drawing a whirlwind of criticism along the way. “The racism in Millinocket is real,” one resident of the city posted to Facebook. “I had to read it more than once because I thought it was something [my mom] saw on Facebook. But when she said it was a business [in town], I was immediately disgusted,” another resident of the small town added. “People have this idea that Maine isn’t very racist and that it’s pretty liberal. But up north, it’s not like that at all.”
Progressive spokesperson Jeff Sibel shared a written statement that read, “At Progressive, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) are fundamental to our Core Values. We’re committed to creating an environment where our people feel welcomed, valued and respected and expect that anyone representing Progressive to take part in this commitment,” he shared. “The sign is in direct violation of that commitment and doesn’t align with our company’s Core Values and Code of Conduct.”
Yesterday (June 21), Chair of the Millinocket Town Council Steve Golieb said, “It is deeply saddening, disgraceful and unacceptable for any person, business, or organization to attempt to make light of Juneteenth and what it represents for millions of slaves and their living descendants.” As of now, Harry E. Reed Insurance Agency, which now has a one-star review on Yelp, has not released a statement.