Lewiston: A Somali demonstration of five turns into 50 as the week goes on

Got Somalis?  Will this be your town in years to come?

We reported, here, a couple of days ago that five demonstrators turned out to protest remarks made by the Mayor of Lewiston, Maine.   Not satisfied the Somalis gathered 50 for another demonstration yesterday to demand the Mayor resign over remarks they didn’t like.

For new readers, Lewiston, Maine has a population of over 6000 Somali refugees.  We have covered the turmoil there for years and wrote this post back in 2009 reporting on how it all began.    Catholic Charities brought the first Somalis to Maine and others followed when they found there were readily available social services.  Since then the town has had a little bit of every problem you might expect when the Somali culture arrives in mass.

If you type ‘Lewiston’ into our search function, you will see what I mean.   Since it looks like this latest controversy isn’t going away any time soon, when I get a few minutes, I will write something that lists all of the problems Lewiston has had over the years.  But, in the meantime, curious readers should check our archives.

The AP story made it to the Washington Post:

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.”

This isn’t the first Mayor to be pressured out of office:

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.

By the way, there was another mayor the Somalis liked and he encouraged more Somalis to come to town.  He was feted for his good work in calming tensions by none other than John Podesta at the Center for American Progress, here, in 2010.

Here is some of what Mayor Macdonald is accused of saying:

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.”

Here is Mayor Macdonald’s contact information.  He does have a point about failed cultures arriving in the US, resisting change and then expecting that their failed culture will add to America’s successful one.  Is that what they mean when they say “diversity is strength?”