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Chief of Maine’s Capitol Police Radicalized by Far-Right Conspiracies

Russ Gauvin spread racist hate and deadly lies on a since-deleted Facebook page

by | Jan 15, 2021

Gauvin with his capitol police crew (left) and a pro-Trump Spongebob meme from his now-deleted Facebook page (right)

Maine Bureau of Capitol Police Chief Russ Gauvin, the law enforcement official directly in charge of protecting state government staff and buildings in Augusta against threats of right-wing violence in the coming days, has himself been radicalized into believing and promoting deadly right-wing conspiracies.

Dozens of posts on Gauvin’s personal Facebook page, which was deleted shortly after Mainer contacted him for comment, show him sliding into an increasingly paranoid and hateful worldview since the Black Lives Matter protests that followed the police killing of George Floyd last spring.

In July, Gauvin promoted the idea that COVID-19 facemask mandates are part of a grand, sinister plot against the public, and openly mocked their use. In November, he refused to accept Joe Biden’s victory, declaring in a Nov. 7 post that he had “zero confidence in the reported results.” Gauvin linked to an anonymous editorial posted on the far-right website Law Enforcement Today that called the election “a psychological operation of epic proportions” and cited prominent Jewish, Black and Hispanic figures in finance and the media as part of the problem.

A day later, Gauvin wrote that Facebook was “driving [him] crazy” and said he’d started an account on Parler, the social media app that by then was already notorious for fostering the views of violent right-wing extremists. Gauvin provided his Facebook followers with his Parler handle and encouraged them to join him on the hate site, which was effectively shut down earlier this month for spreading “posts that clearly encourage and incite violence,” according to its hosting provider, Amazon Web Services.       

On July 25, Gauvin expressed sympathy with the views of a former Maine police officer who called for deadly violence against Black Lives Matter protesters and the immediate prosecution of government officials nationwide for “enabling” the demonstrations against police brutality.

“Live rounds, dead Violent felons and RICO convictions of all enabling politicians … will need to commence [within] the next 2 to 3 days in order to permanently eliminate this expanding felony conduct and life/property/taxpayer cost,” wrote Brian Gagan, a former patrol officer who worked for the Westbook and Scarborough police departments and now heads a corporate consulting firm called Leadership Strategies.

“A peaceful solution was preempted beginning on May 26th,” Gagan continued, referring to the day after Floyd’s murder, when the mayor of Minneapolis announced the four officers involved in his death had been fired. “Live rounds are now the most peaceful remaining solution. The next most peaceful is napalm. The great thing is that this criminal idiocy includes people of all skin colors.”

Gauvin responded to Gagan’s comment with a “sad/crying face” emoji. He did not respond to Mainer’s request for comment. His bosses — Maine Commissioner of Public Safety Mike Sauschuck, with whom Gauvin served on Portland’s police force, and Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat — also did not respond to requests for comment.

The Bureau of Capitol Police, which includes 12 officers in addition to Chief Gauvin, is primarily responsible for protecting the state capitol complex. In a Jan. 12 press release, Maine State Police spokesperson Katy England said state law enforcement is “aware of the reports from the FBI about the potential for armed protests in every state capitol, including Maine, and takes them extremely seriously.”  

In response to what England called “the events of last week,” she said the Capitol Police, with help from the Maine State Police, “has increased its presence in and around the Capitol.” Unrest is expected this Sunday and next Wednesday, Inauguration Day.

Gauvin’s all-white, all-male force of sworn officers is also responsible for enforcing the mask mandate inside the State House complex. On Jan. 14, the Portland Press Herald reported that over a half dozen Republican state lawmakers were recorded in a Jan. 5 Facebook video not wearing masks or social distancing inside a State House office.

Gauvin told the newspaper he could not answer questions about enforcement of the mandate. His social media posts make it clear that he adamantly objects to the public health measure. For example, on Aug. 16 he shared an opinion piece published by The Critic, a conservative British magazine, titled “Face masks make you stupid,” in which writer Patrick Fagan argues that masks cause health problems and “dehumanise” wearers, making them docile and susceptible to authoritarian control. “Interesting read,” Gauvin wrote.

Gauvin has headed the Capitol Police since 2006. During his tenure in Portland, which began in 1980, he led efforts to crack down on consensual gay sex at a local porn theater and to close a popular dance club, Zootz, for, among other things, hosting a dominatrix-themed dance night. “One must question the type of clientele drawn to these type of shows,” Gauvin wrote in a 1997 report to the City Council urging denial of the club’s liquor license.

Although Parler has been taken offline, its content was captured by hackers and the massive trove of posts is expected to be accessible in the coming weeks. Unlike his Facebook account, Gauvin will not be able to delete his Parler posts when they become public again.  

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