LEWISTON, Maine — 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.”