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Band of armed vigilantes cut down tree, block road in attempt to forcibly quarantine out-of-state travelers

Taking matters into their own hands

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

An armed group of Maine residents chopped down a tree and blocked the road in an attempt to forcibly quarantine three people that the group reportedly believed could be carrying COVID-19.

The unnamed three people had just arrived in the Maine island town of Vinalhaven after traveling from out of state.

What are the details?

The incident took place Friday after one of the residents reportedly attempted to leave their residence on Friday to run an errand and came upon the downed tree.

The Knox County Sheriff's Office said that a crowd began to gather as the person investigated the tree.

"While investigating the downed tree, a neighbor started yelling at him, and a group of people showed up and began to gather around," the sheriff's office said in a statement on the incident.

The male, "believing the group may be there to harm him," ran back into his residence and warned his two roommates.

The sheriff's office said it received a report of "several people with guns" who had cut down a tree and "were telling [the roommates] that they needed to stay quarantined."

Law enforcement arrived on the scene, but the crowd had reportedly dispersed by then.

A spokesperson for the office said that it was "apparent that the tree had been cut down and dragged into the roadway to block it," and pointed out that it "learned that there is a general belief by some island residents that the Cripple Creek residents are supposed to be quarantined because they came here from another state and could have COVID-19."

Authorities determined that the three people had been living in the area for at least 30 days and said that it was "concerned that some believe that anyone from out of state is potentially infected and needs to be quarantined."

In a statement, authorities added, "Whether someone is a Maine resident or not, they have the right to free movement and anyone who infringes upon that free movement is potentially violating the law."

What else?

In a statement, Democratic state Rep. Genevieve McDonald said that the incident was inexcusable.

"[T]here are two guys from N.J. on Vinalhaven who have been renting a house since September while working on a construction job," she said. "They went to the mainland, and were targeted because of their license plate when they arrived back on Vinalhaven."

Calling the police response a "tremendous waste of resources," McDonald added, "targeting people because of their license plates will not serve any of us well."

"Now is not the time to develop or encourage an 'us vs. them' mentality," she said.

"Stay home, wash your hands, don't talk to strangers, and don't waste the time of our first responders," she concluded.

One last thing…
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