Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R)’s dog whistles about the racial background of drug dealers in his state turned into a full-on bark on Friday, when he encouraged law enforcement to treat people of color as “the enemy.”
“Look, a bad guy is a bad guy, I don’t care what color it is. When you go to war, if you know the enemy, the enemy dresses in red and you dress in blue, you shoot at red, don’t you?” he said at a press conference, according to the Portland Press Herald. “You shoot at the enemy. You try to identify the enemy. And the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority right now coming in are people of color or people of Hispanic origin. I can’t help that. I just can’t help it. Those are the facts.”
LePage made these remarks at a presser organized to discuss an expletive-laced voicemail he left for a state legislator who he believed had called him a racist. Though Democratic Rep. Drew Gattine denied ever making the charge, LePage labeled him a “socialist cocksucker” and lamented that duels were no longer an acceptable way to settle disagreements.
During the Friday press conference, the Maine governor produced a three-ring binder full of mugshots of the drug dealers arrested in his state, 90 percent of whom, he said, were black of Latino.
LePage has made these claims before, saying that Maine’s opioid crisis was the fault of out-of-state drug dealers with names like “Shifty” and “D-Money” who bring drugs in from New York City.
LePage’s admission that people of color are targeted far more often for drug arrests sparked charges of government-sponsored racial profiling from his critics.
“According to the governor, Maine police are nine times more likely to arrest people of color for selling drugs than white people, even though we know white people are just as likely to commit drug offenses,” Alison Beyea, executive director of the ACLU’s Maine chapter, said in a statement. “This alarming disparity in arrests raises significant concerns that Maine law enforcement is participating in unconstitutional racial profiling.”
The group filed a Freedom of Access Act request for the governor’s binder.