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A bill to restrict paramilitary training in Maine in response to a neo-Nazi who wanted to create a training centre for a “blood tribe” was signed into law by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills on Friday.

The law, which the governor signed without public comment, allows the attorney-general to file for a court injunction to stop paramilitary training that’s intended to sow civil disorder – and to bring charges that carry a penalty of up to a year in jail.

Rep. Laurie Osher of Orono introduced the bill after a prominent neo-Nazi and white supremacist, Christopher Pohlhaus, sought to set up a training centre on property that he ultimately sold before carrying out the plan.

“I welcome people to come to Maine and live here and work hard and make Maine a better place. But I’m not welcoming of people who want to make Maine a white ethno-state,” Osher, a Democrat, said Friday evening. “This bill is making it clear that anyone who has that intent is not welcome to do that here.”

Opponents argued that the measure could trample on constitutional rights, while supporters said it aims to prevent the creation of shadow military forces for purposes of creating civil unrest.

Osher said many constituents told her lawmakers had to do something with a rise in harassment and intolerance of a growing diversity in the state. But the law doesn’t target any specific group, she said.

Attorney General Aaron Frey said militias that don’t follow the orders of civilian leaders were already prohibited by the Maine Constitution, but that applies specifically to groups parading with guns in public or outfitted in clothing that looks like real military uniforms.

Without the new law, he said previously, he had no way to bring a criminal case against someone using military training to create civil disorder, as authorities say Pohlhaus sought to do.

Pohlhaus has hinted that if he were to try again to establish a training facility, he’d be careful to ensure the property was not in his name to avoid arousing suspicions.

Vermont took a similar action last year by banning people from owning and running paramilitary training camps. That bill came in response to a firearms training facility built without permits that neighbours called a nuisance.

The Vermont law, which came in response to a property known as Slate Ridge, prohibits people from teaching, training or demonstrating to others how to make or use firearms, explosives or incendiary devices to cause civil disorder.

It does not apply to law enforcement or educational institutions like Norwich University. Violators face up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $50,000 or both.

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