Freeport man charged with violating Black man's civil rights

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Jan. 21—A Freeport man has been charged with violating the civil rights of a Black man who was allegedly threatened with a gun after he dined with a white woman at a Freeport pizzeria.

Attorney General Aaron Frey announced Friday that he filed the complaint under the Maine Civil Rights Act against William Rowe, 61, who allegedly confronted the man while he was sitting in his car in the parking lot of Antonia's Pizzeria.

According to Frey's complaint, Rowe had a semi-automatic pistol visible under his left armpit when the approached the man during the Nov. 30, 2021, confrontation. When Rowe turned away, the gun was pointed in the man's direction.

The man filmed the incident on his cellphone as Rowe approached the car, leaned over the window and said, "Something stinks. You got it?" and then continued by saying, "Freeport, Maine, baby. We don't do this (expletive) in Freeport, Maine," Frey's complaint says.

Rowe continued to ask the man what he was doing at the pizzeria and said the man was a "bad, bad guy" and then walked away, muttering more epithets, according to the complaint.

The complaint alleges that Rowe targeted the man based on his race or color. It asks that Rowe be barred from having any more contact with the man and from violating the Maine Civil Rights Act in the future.

The attorney general can bring a complaint under the act for those accused of using or threatening physical force or violence or threatening or damaging the property of another person, if motivated by bias against a person's race, color, sex, ancestry, national origin, physical or mental disability or sexual orientation. A knowing violation of an order issued under the act is punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

Rowe also faces criminal charges in Cumberland County stemming from the incident. He has been charged with criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, threatening display of a weapon and criminal mischief. His initial appearance in court is scheduled for Feb. 22.

"Who could have imagined that, in 2021 in Freeport, Maine, a Black man would be threatened with violence for dining with a white woman?" Frey said in a statement. "I am deeply concerned that such racism and intolerance persist in this state. No person should feel unsafe due to the color of his skin and the company he keeps."

This story will be updated.