Social Media Posts Take a Maine Legislator’s Comments About ‘Nazis’ Out of Context

The Maine Capitol building. (Photo by Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

A post from Occupy Democrats, a social media page with more than 10 million Facebook followers, alleges that Laurel Libby, a Republican state representative from Maine asked whether “the Nazis” did anything that was illegal. 

The Maine House Democratic Campaign Committee, in a similar post, quotes Libby before saying that they “won’t stand for this MAGA extremism in Maine.”

As of April 10, the Maine House Democratic Campaign Committee’s website also featured the clip on its front page in a fundraising advertisement, saying, “This extremist rhetoric has no place in the Maine House of Representatives.” 

These posts are misleading and make it appear that Libby was referring to the German Nazi party. Libby is actually referencing a specific neo-Nazi demonstration that took place in Maine last year.

What’s the context?

On April 3, 2024, the Maine House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban certain paramilitary activities in the state. The state legislature’s actions stemmed from two events in 2023. That year, a prominent neo-Nazi attempted to establish a paramilitary training center in northern Maine and a group of neo-Nazis organized a demonstration in Augusta.

According to its summary, the bill would prohibit “a person from the teaching of, training in or demonstrating the use, application or making of a firearm, explosive or incendiary device if the person knows or reasonably should know that the teaching, training or demonstrating is intended to be used in or in furtherance of civil disorder.” Additionally, the bill also “prohibits a person from assembling with others for the purpose of practicing or being trained or instructed in the use, application or making of a firearm, explosive or incendiary device or in techniques capable of causing injury or death.”

On the day of the vote, Libby, alongside other state Republicans, spoke against the bill, arguing that it would impede on law-abiding citizens’ First and Second Amendment rights. In a short speech, Libby asked supporters of the bill whether anything that the Augusta neo-Nazi demonstrators did in 2023 was actually illegal. 

“I would like to know what they did in detail that folks would like to share that was wrong that infringed on another person’s right. Holding a rally and even holding a rally with guns is not illegal. That is within our rights,” Libby said. “Now, we don’t have to like what said Nazis did. We don’t have to like what they stand for. We don’t have to agree with their positions. We don’t have to think well of them. You know what we do have to do? We have to protect their First Amendment right to free speech and association. That is our job,” she continued. “It is our duty to protect the Nazis’ right to free speech and association as long as it does not infringe on someone else’s right, as long as they are not harming someone else.”

The 2023 demonstration did not result in any arrests, and a spokesperson for the Maine Department of Public Safety told the Portland Press Herald at the time that “the demonstration was peaceful and there was no damage to any state or city property.”

“I said that it’s our job, it’s the proper role of government to protect the right to free speech and association, whether we like how people use those rights or not, as long as they’re not hurting someone else, or infringing on someone else’s rights,” Libby told The Dispatch Fact Check. “Whether we’re talking about someone burning the flag, kneeling for the anthem, or neo-Nazis rallying in Augusta … it is our duty to protect Maine people’s right to free speech and association as long as it does not infringe on someone else’s rights and as long as they’re not harming someone else. That’s the crux of the matter.”

A spokesperson for the Maine House Democrats did not return a request for comment.

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