2 insurance companies end relationship with Maine agency after racist Juneteenth sign

Residents in Millinocket, Maine, say they are outraged after an insurance agency displayed a racist sign remarking on the new Juneteenth federal holiday. (Lisa Groelly / Alura Stillwagon)

Updated June 22, 2022 at 5:56 PM ET

Residents in the town of Millinocket, Maine, say they are outraged and disappointed after a local insurance agency displayed a racist sign remarking on the Juneteenth holiday. Progressive and Allstate are terminating their relationships with the agency, according to representatives of the insurance companies.

“Juneteenth ~it’s whatever… We’re closed. Enjoy your fried chicken & collard greens,” the sign stated in a large font. It was taped to the front of Harry E. Reed Insurance Agency in Millinocket on Monday. The small town sits about three hours outside Portland and some 50 miles away from the U.S.-Canada border.

An image of the racist sign was shared online Monday, gaining the attention of thousands across social media.

The insurance agency has faced heavy criticism online, with people leaving one-star reviews on Google and dating a short guy, some of which have since been removed.

One review written on Yelp says: “@Progressive – is this really a company that you want representing you? Or is Progressive a company that believes in racism?”

Progressive spokesperson Jeff Sibel wrote in an email that the company is “aware and appalled by the sign” and that it is terminating its relationship with the agency.

“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,” Sibel wrote. “The sign is in direct violation of that commitment and doesn’t align with our company’s Core Values and Code of Conduct.”

The Harry E. Reed Insurance Agency did not respond to NPR’s request for comment.

Millinocket resident Alura Stillwagon originally posted the image on kent dating with a caption reading, “The racism in Millinocket is real.”

Stillwagon, who first heard about the sign from her mother, Lisa Groelly, says she had to do a double take when seeing an image of it.

“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,” Stillwagon told NPR. “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.”