AUGUSTA — Former U.S. Senate candidate Max Linn addressed a crowd Saturday to unveil a new website and pledge support for the state’s businesses during the pandemic.

The gatherings near the State House have become a regular event to show support for President Donald Trump and protest Gov. Janet Mills’ mask mandates and restrictions upon some Maine businesses.

Linn said he was attending Saturday’s event not as a Democrat or a Republican, but as “an American citizen” who is “tired of government overreach.”

Linn, a financial planner from Bar Harbor who has been involved in Maine politics over the last three years, ran unsuccessfully as an independent in November to unseat Sen. Susan Collins. He also tried to run for Senate in 2018 as a Republican, but was disqualified before the primary.

While Linn spoke, protesters on the other side of Capitol Street carried signs and flags pledging their support for Trump and their resistance to mask mandates intended to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Cases of COVID-19 continue to increase in Maine, with 617 new cases and six more deaths announced Saturday.

About 20 people attended the event, including a couple of protestors dressed in camouflage with long guns suspended from straps on their backs.

Linn also attended Wednesday’s events in Washington, D.C., but said he was not involved in the riots at the U.S. Capitol that resulted in five deaths and numerous arrests.

Linn told the Sun Journal on Friday that the D.C. event he attended was a happy celebration by Trump’s supporters who hoped the president and his allies would somehow convince the Congress to reject Electoral College votes cast for Democrat Joe Biden. On Saturday, Linn echoed the same sentiment, adding he “couldn’t even see” the violence.

“When I got home and saw the TV and saw what was going on, I really believe there were two separate get-togethers going on,” he said. “Nobody wants violence.”

On Saturday, Linn promoted a new website, DonaldTrumpPatriots.com, describing himself as he group’s founder and national director. He said the group of Donald Trump Patriots are “afraid of government overreach and too much government.”

“We don’t think the government should be mandating what businesses are necessary and which ones are not,” Linn said. “The fact is, because of these lockdowns, what we don’t hear in the media is how many people are going bankrupt.”

Linn said his group is looking to support the small businesses that are struggling due to various pandemic-related restrictions and mandates. Linn said he is not anti-mask, but is against the “government overreach” of them being mandated.

When asked what is next for the Donald Trump Patriots, Linn said he would “make another announcement.” When asked if that meant he was considering lobbying for small businesses or another run for office, Linn said he was not at the event to run for any office.

“We’ll wait for the next election to make change,” he said. “Between now and then, I know my mission statement will be to help small businesses stay in business” and to stop the pandemic mandates.

Linn also issued a public challenge to Mills, who he said has a “good heart,” inviting her to a conversation on live television to discuss the pros and cons of mandatory lockdowns.

“It should be the community’s choice and the people’s choice on whether they open their business or they keep their business closed,” he said. “I feel her intent is good, as my intent is good.”

The Augusta protests became a weekly event after some media outlets projected Joe Biden as the president-elect in November. Some participants displayed signs supporting the “reopening” of the state and the elimination of mask mandates.

Some honking motorists demonstrated their support for the rally Saturday, while others dissented through their words and by blaring anti-Trump songs from their car stereos.

One protestor, Michelle Truman of Hallowell, held a sign that read “Unmask Maine.” She said she was exercising her right to decide for herself whether or not to wear a mask.

“We’re free American citizens, last I checked,” Truman said. “I’m just exercising my right as an American citizen to stand up for my rights.”

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