Sheriff apologizes for releasing photos of Muslim protesters without their hijabs

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Here’s what’s new.

What we’re talking about

The Cumberland County sheriff is apologizing to two Muslim women for improperly distributing mugshots in which they were shown without their religious headscarves shortly after the pair was arrested, along with 16 other members of a Black Lives Matter protest earlier this summer in Portland.

“I offer my sincerest apologies to any of the individuals who were at all embarrassed that evening and to the Muslim community for the appearance that we were disrespecting their religious beliefs and practices,” said Sheriff Kevin Joyce in a statement Wednesday.

On the night of the protest, July 16, the sheriff’s office distributed booking photos of the group arrested for obstructing a public way. The photos were published by local media outlets and show two women who had been wearing hijabs at the protest with their heads uncovered. Neither BDN Portland nor the Bangor Daily News published the photos. 

The hijab is worn by some Muslim women as a sign of modesty and others as an overt statement of religious devotion.

The sheriff launched an inquiry into the incident after a protester told the Portland City Council that the women had been forced to remove their hijabs, according to the release, in which the claim is called an “unfounded accusation.”

The sheriff’s office admitted that it violated its own policy in distributing the photographs. According to jail policy, two sets of photographs are taken for people wearing a headscarf, one with and one without the religious head covering. But only the former photographs should have been released, according to the sheriff.

Joyce said that sending out the photos was an error and that “no malice” was involved. But the ACLU of Maine said that it is a civil rights violation, regardless.

“Publicizing the photos of the young women without their hijab infringed on their religious freedom as guaranteed by the Constitution, and served no public safety purpose,” said legal director Zachary Heiden. — Jake Bleiberg


Tim Kaine is coming to Maine tomorrow — The Democratic vice presidential hopeful will be in the state for a private fundraiser. The location was not immediately announced, but Clinton’s campaign said the event will not be open to the media.

The news came the day after the release of poll results that show Hillary Clinton is leading Donald Trump by only a few percentage points in Maine. The Republican nominee is leading by a full 10 points in the more conservative 2nd Congressional District. As Chris Cousins pointed out today: “The presidential race hasn’t been this close in Maine since Democrat Al Gore won the state by 5 percentage points in 2000.”

A Portland artist is showing his exhibit in a shipping container in Congress Square — Kathleen Pierce writes:

Last fall, University of Southern Maine graduate Justin Levesque of Portland spent nine days aboard an Eimskip container ship traveling from Portland to Reykjavik — all in the name of art.

“It was amazing. I loved it. I’m a little obsessed with ships. The smell of the sea and gasoline gives me flashbacks and makes me homesick,” Levesque said.

The photographer captured the working man’s view of marine trade through colorful and gritty images and podcast interviews. The results of his onboard residency, “ICELANDx207: Container,” lands in Congress Square Park on Sept. 27.

Fittingly, the photographer’s dream project will be shown in a shipping container.

How clean is your weed? — Gillian Graham reports:

The Certified Clean Cannabis program, launched by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and now in a yearlong trial phase, is the first of its kind on the East Coast and one of the only programs in the country to set standards for growing medical marijuana without harmful chemicals.

In related news, what even is ‘organic’?Francis Flisiuk’s longform article in this week’s Phoenix lays out what it means for food to be labeled organic:

The general impression, from casual conversations with farmers market foodies, is that buying organic produce comes with certain expectations: the food will be safer, healthier, tastier and less of a strain on the environment. It’s the “you are what you eat,” kind of mentality and firm believers are willing to pay extra money to adhere to it.

But many are unaware that buying organic produce doesn’t necessarily shield your body from exposure to pesticides. The United States Department of Agriculture recognizes the differences in methods between conventional and organic farming, but makes no claims that they are any safer. On top of that, there are no scientific, peer reviewed studies that prove that organic foods are more nutritious, or that residual amounts of pesticides cause cancer.

The Big Idea

Two theories why more young Americans are supportive of immigrants — The Washington Post reports:

Just in the past three years, there have been startling shifts in how 18- to 30- year-olds feel about the foreign-born, according to a comparison of two identically worded polls from the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago and the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

There are two possible reasons, it says:

First, younger generations have grown up with more diversity, so they likely feel more comfortable with immigrants in general. This is a version of what psychologists call the contact hypothesis — the idea that people become less prejudiced when they spend more time with other groups.

On the other hand, it could have something to do with a certain presidential candidate:

Donald Trump has been widely accused of racism for his comments describing Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and his calls to ban Muslims from entering the United States. His inflammatory rhetoric may have caused some millennials to distance themselves from him and his views on immigration.

Related: Obama told Congress he wants to accept 110,000 refugees into the country next year, up from 85,000. Interesting fact in this story: The greatest share of refugees in 2015 came from Myanmar.

Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at, or tweet @dsmacleod.

As always, like BDN Portland on Facebook for more local coverage.



Dan MacLeod

About Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the managing editor of the Bangor Daily News. He's an Orland native who moved to Portland in 2002 and now lives in Unity. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.