PORTLAND – The anti-Semitic white supremacist group that dropped anti-Somali leaflets in Portland and Lewiston over the weekend is aiming to build its membership in Maine.
The National Alliance, based in West Virginia, claims to have members in every state. David Pringle, the group’s national membership director, said there are fewer than 100 dues-paying members in Maine, but he would not be more specific.
The alliance does not allow chapters to form with fewer than 10 members.
Pringle, who lives in Alaska, said 16 members from Boston, Chicago and elsewhere flew into Maine last weekend to distribute the fliers and recruit members.
They gave out 12 membership applications, he said, and distributed hundreds of leaflets.
“These people are very polite, not confrontational,” said Lewiston Sgt. Michael McGonagle. “I don’t think [people] realize what they’re up to until they’re gone and they read it. It’s pretty awful stuff.”
About 1,100 Somalis have moved to Lewiston in the last year and a half from other U.S. cities.
“Our message was that we were coming to warn the residents of Lewiston what happens when they allow too many immigrants to come into their city,” Pringle said.
Two men who said they were members of the group appeared at an October march in support of Somalis in Lewiston. They advocated “white living space” free of Jews and blacks and carried signs that warned crime and welfare costs would rise with immigration.
Members of the group circulated leaflets in Kennebunk in July as part of an effort to distribute 70,000 fliers around the country.
The group was founded in 1974 by William Pierce, a former professor of physics. Pierce led the group until his death in July.
The group now has about 1,500 members, according to estimates by the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups.