Some 4,500 people gathered in Lewiston, Maine on Saturday to rally in support of the Somali community. Three miles away, the white supremacist group World Church of the Creator held a rally of their own. David Stearns told the crowd: "These people (Africans) are the enemy. Make no mistake. If they get the chance, they will probably slit your throat."
The city of Lewiston, Maine has a population of just 35,000. In the last two years, over a thousand Somali refugees have settled there, looking for low-cost housing, safe streets, and a family-friendly environment.
The anti-immigrant rhetoric heated up in October, when Lewiston Mayor Laurier Raymond wrote a letter to the local newspaper asking that no more Somalis move to Lewiston. He said Lewiston is as unable to afford services for them.
World Church of the Creator leader Matt Hale used the perception of a besieged white majority to promote Saturday’s hate rally. (The mayor was conspicuously absent for the weekend, on a golfing vacation in Florida.)
Matt Hale himself could not be at the rally. He was arrested in Chicago last week for allegedly plotting to murder a federal judge.
- Lewiston high school students Cara Gaumont and Sifia Nur, talking about their inter-racial friendship at the anti-racism rally at Bates College on Saturday.
- Stephen Wessler, Director of the Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence at the University of Southern Maine. The center conducts workshops on preventing hate violence. Wessler directed the civil rights enforcement effort at the Maine Department of the Attorney General from 1992 to 1999.
- Omar Jamal, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, the home of the largest Somali community in the US. Jamal is leading a National Tour Against Hate, which has brought him to Somali communities in Seattle and now Lewiston, Maine.