Maine Mayor: Somalis Should Leave Culture at Door

Lewiston Mayor Somalis.JPEG

Community advocate Nimo Yonis leads a protest chant against the mayor of Lewiston, Maine, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012. Critics of the mayor delivered petitions asking for his resignation because of comments he made about Somali refugees in his city.  

LEWISTON, Maine October 4, 2012 – Ten years after a Lewiston mayor set off a firestorm by saying the city’s Somali population was growing too fast, a new mayor’s remarks about the immigrant community is sparking another wave of anger and calls for his resignation.

Somali immigrants and their supporters in this former mill city in central Maine say Mayor Robert Macdonald should apologize and step down for what they call repeated anti-immigrant remarks, including telling a British Broadcasting Corp. interviewer that immigrants should “accept our culture and leave your culture at the door.”

A group of about 50 protesters rallied outside City Hall on Thursday before delivering 1,400 petitions to Macdonald’s office, asking for his resignation.

The mayor’s remarks sounded like he was telling immigrants to abandon their religion, their language and their identities, said Nimo Yonis, 26, one of an about 6,000 Somali refugees who live in Lewiston and the neighboring city of Auburn. The mayor’s words were painful, hurtful and “represent hate,” she said.

“Basically, he’s telling us to forget who we were,” Yonis said. “Just leaving your culture at the door is leaving what you believe, what you stand for and who you are at the door.”

Macdonald has attempted to clarify his comments, saying immigrants should try to assimilate into American culture. He has said his comments were taken out of context, and has claimed he never said anything derogatory about Somalis.

Macdonald was not in his office Thursday and didn’t immediately return a phone message left by The Associated Press.

His words have rekindled memories of a decade ago when then-Mayor Larry Raymond wrote a letter in 2002 asking Somali leaders to discourage friends and family from relocating to Lewiston, saying the city’s resources were “maxed-out.”

The first Somali immigrants arrived in Lewiston in early 2001, moving 40 miles north of Portland because of plentiful, cheap housing. By the time Raymond wrote his letter, nearly 1,000 Somalis had moved to the Lewiston area.

The outrage over his letter attracted international attention and spurred a 4,000-person rally at Bates College, urging Mainers to embrace the influx of immigrants. During the rally, a small number of white supremacists who called for the expulsion of the Somalis gathered elsewhere in the city.

With the current mayor, critics say Macdonald has made repeated inflammatory remarks about the Somali population.

He wrote in a local weekly newspaper that “submissive Somali women turn into obnoxious customers at the grocery store cash register.” He also wrote that he was tired of news stories about Somalis being treated poorly; most complaints, he wrote, came from “boo-hoo white do-gooders and their carpetbagger friends.”

He later told a reporter that immigrants shouldn’t “insert your culture, which obviously isn’t working, into ours, which does.”

Mark Cayer, president of the Lewiston City Council, read a statement Thursday on behalf of the whole council saying the mayor’s comments were his alone and not representative of the council or the city as a whole.

The letter written by Raymond in 2002 and Macdonald’s words last month are “two totally different scenarios and two different moments in time,” he said.

“But clearly there was division in the community at that time, and there’s still evidence of a division now,” he said. “But overall I think the community will grow from this.”

Ten years after a Lewiston mayor set off a firestorm by saying the city’s Somali population was growing too fast, a new mayor’s remarks about the immigrant community is sparking another wave of anger and calls for his resignation.

THE STREETS OF LEWISTON LOOK LIKE A THIRD WORLD COUNTRY NOW

About 6,000 Somali immigrants have settled into this have settled in this nearly all-white, heavily French-Canadian and largely Roman Catholic city of 36,000, giving Lewiston the highest concentration of Somalis anywhere in America. The Somalis began arriving in this city in February 2001, beginning the ethnic transformation of a city that was 97 percent white. Lewiston’s Somalis now represent close to 10 percent of the population, with an additional 30 or so arriving each month. Because of the Somalis’ large families, the percentage in the schools is even higher. Living off welfare,  many Somalis have moved into the city’s housing projects.

Somali immigrants and their supporters in this former mill city in central Maine say Mayor Robert Macdonald should apologize and step down for what they call repeated anti-immigrant remarks, including telling a British Broadcasting Corp. interviewer that immigrants should “accept our culture and leave your culture at the door.”

A group of about 50 protesters rallied outside City Hall on Thursday before delivering 1,400 petitions to Macdonald’s office, asking for his resignation.

The mayor’s remarks sounded like he was telling immigrants to abandon their religion, their language and their identities, said Nimo Yonis, 26, one of an about 6,000 Somali refugees who live in Lewiston and the neighboring city of Auburn. The mayor’s words were painful, hurtful and “represent hate,” she said.

“Basically, he’s telling us to forget who we were,” Yonis said. “Just leaving your culture at the door is leaving what you believe, what you stand for and who you are at the door.”

Macdonald has attempted to clarify his comments, saying immigrants should try to assimilate into American culture. He has said his comments were taken out of context, and has claimed he never said anything derogatory about Somalis.

His words have rekindled memories of a decade ago when then-Mayor Larry Raymond wrote a letter in 2002 asking Somali leaders to discourage friends and family from relocating to Lewiston, saying the city’s resources were “maxed-out.”

The outrage over his letter attracted international attention and spurred a 4,000-person rally at Bates College, urging Mainers to embrace the influx of immigrants. During the rally, a small number of white supremacists who called for the expulsion of the Somalis gathered elsewhere in the city.

With the current mayor, critics say Macdonald has made repeated inflammatory remarks about the Somali population.

He wrote in a local weekly newspaper that “submissive Somali women turn into obnoxious customers at the grocery store cash register.” He also wrote that he was tired of news stories about Somalis being treated poorly; most complaints, he wrote, came from “boo-hoo white do-gooders and their carpetbagger friends.”

He later told a reporter that immigrants shouldn’t “insert your culture, which obviously isn’t working, into ours, which does.”

READ MORE ABOUT HOW SOMALI MUSLIMS BRING NOTHING BUT CRIME, RAPE, SEX TRAFFICKING, GANGS, AND LARGE FAMILIES, MANY OF WHOM LIVE ON WELFARE OR IF THEY DO WORK, CAUSE TROUBLE FOR THEIR EMPLOYERS BY DEMANDING SPECIAL RELIGIOUS ACCOMMODATIONS: SOMALI MUSLIMS IN AMERICA

Posted on October 5, 2012, in Truth to Power. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: