Lewiston Community Members Ask for Macdonald's Apology, Resignation
Mayor's Long List of Anti-Somali Statements Has Embarrassed City
Lewiston - Community leaders, elected officials and local members of the Maine People's Alliance gathered today at City Hall in Lewiston to urge Mayor Robert Macdonald to apologize for a series of anti-immigrant and racially insensitive statements that they say have made him unfit to continue to serve as mayor.
"This is a clear pattern here of hateful and ignorant speech. This doesn't represent the Lewiston I know and love," Said MPA lead community organizer Gen Lysen, "These are things he's saying publicly, to banks of TV cameras and to international film crews. He obviously thinks it's OK to divide Lewiston instead of working to bring us together."
The group played a video compilation of a dozen of the Mayor's public remarks, with clips showing him repeatedly arguing for the inferiority of Somali culture, expressing his anger at Somalis being compared to Franco-American immigrants, and making offensive comments about Somali-American women.
"The remarks made by the mayor over the last few months were clearly racist and anti-immigrant statements that do not reflect the norm of this all-American city. I have found the overwhelming majority of the residents of Lewiston support our new Mainers," said Jama Mohamed, Communications Director for Somali Bantu Youth. "The remarks are painful, hurtful and display the mayor's ignorance about our community. We demand an apology and a plan from his office on how he will work to unite his city, not further divide it."
"It is ironic that such remarks come from a mayor of a city literally built by French-Canadian and Irish immigrants," said Louis Morin, who serves as executive director of the Franco-American Heritage Center but was speaking at the rally in a personal capacity. "It's imperative that we respond to such comments forcefully and promptly. Our Somali neighbors have shown a willingness to adapt to life in Lewiston and to open businesses and we should be encouraging them to continue doing so."
Participants also displayed more than 1,400 signed petitions asking Macdonald to voluntarily resign his office and allow the city to move forward without him. The petitions are meant as an expression of local sentiment as Lewiston has no formal recall procedure for its mayor. Macdonald has informed local media that it "will be a cold day in hell" before he resigns.
"The Somali community of Lewiston stands here today to express our anger and frustration with the continuous derogatory and inflammatory words used by the mayor of this great City of Lewiston, Mr. Bob MacDonald," said Somali community organizer Nimo Yonis. "Mr. Mayor, those remarks are painful, hurtful and display your ignorance about our community. They represent hate. No one twisted your words. You chose them clearly and stood by them, or blamed others, when given the opportunity to clarify and correct them."
Lewiston City Councilor Craig Saddlemire thanked the community members for speaking out.
"Thank you for standing up and demanding the dignity and the respect that you deserve. It's clear that I think that the mayor should apologize and after all that you have been through an apology is the least that you are owed," said Saddlemire. "Thank you for all that you have done for Lewiston"