Maine Gov. Paul LePage said yesterday that black and Hispanic people “from Lowell and Lawrence” are partly responsible for trafficking highly addictive heroin and fentanyl into his state, prompting one Lawrence official to call for a Pine Tree State boycott until LePage apologizes, while others slammed the brash Republican’s comments as “ill-informed.”
LePage, in Boston for a conference with other New England governors and Canadian premiers, doubled down on comments he made last week, claiming to have a three-ring binder of mug shots of alleged drug dealers, of which he said 90 percent were black or Hispanic.
But yesterday, he went further, saying it’s a “fact” they came from the two Massachusetts cities, as well as New York and Connecticut.
“What I said was this: Meth lab arrests are white. They’re Mainers. The heroin-fentanyl arrests are not white people. They’re Hispanic and they’re black and they’re from Lowell and Lawrence, Massachusetts; Waterbury, Connecticut; the Bronx and Brooklyn,” LePage told the State House News Service. “I didn’t make up the rules. That’s how it turns out. But that’s a fact. It’s a fact. What do you want, me to lie?”
A spokesman for LePage did not respond to a request to discuss the basis of the governor’s claim.
Lowell and Lawrence officials called his claims outlandish and out-of-step with a problem they say impacts all races and regions in New England.
“He has proven to lack leadership and showcase hatred with specific racial groups. It’s very unfortunate,” said Lawrence City Council president Kendrys Vasquez. He said he plans to file a resolution to halt any official city business with or travel to Maine until LePage apologizes. “We need to send a message, that this is a city that has to be respected.”
Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera said LePage, who is white, “wants to make boogeymen out of people that look different than him.”
“This is a national problem, not just a Maine problem or a Lawrence problem,” Rivera said in an email. “It’s not a white, black or brown problem. It’s an American problem.”
Speaking separately at the same conference, Gov. Charlie Baker did not address LePage’s claims directly, but said the opioid scourge “knows no neighborhood. It knows no race, it knows no class … It’s as pervasive as anything I’ve ever seen in my 30 years in health care.”
Lowell Mayor Edward Kennedy said the flood of heroin and fentanyl into New England largely traces its roots to China and Mexico and finds its way through “points on the East Coast.”
“The Merrimack Valley is not the prime point in that,” he said. “I think it’s a silly and an ill-informed comment (for him) to make. I don’t think there’s any basis for that.”
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