After US 'neo-Nazis target Somalis', Maine city council condemns 'hate and violence'
A city council in the US state of Maine has approved a resolution condemning "hate and violence" after a neo-Nazi rally in the town earlier this month.
On 2 October, a group of more than 20 members of the Nationalist Social Club-131 gathered at a local park in Lewiston and walked through nearby neighbourhoods, according to local news reports.
An image posted online showed a demonstrator holding a sign reading "End Somali Violence" in front of Lewiston's City Hall.
The city council's condemnation of the recent white supremacist demonstration was largely praised by civil rights advocates, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
"We thank the Lewiston City Council for standing by the Somali community and other minority communities against white supremacist intimidation and hate," said CAIR National Communications Coordinator Ismail Allison, noting that the previous day the group had urged the city council to adopt the resolution.
However, several members of the local government have criticised the wording of the resolution and described it as a "watered down" version of the original which referred to the recent neo-Nazi gathering.
Others, however, saw the revised wording of condemning "all forms of hate and violence" as augmenting the message against hate.
The state of Maine, the whitest state in the US according to a recent census, has seen an influx of Somali refugees over the past two decades.
Many of them, including several local politicians, have relocated from the bustling Atlanta metro area to settle into a quieter life in Maine. Many Somali families have been attracted to the state's good schools, low crime rates, and relatively affordable housing.
Maine's Somali community, which is largely concentrated in Portland and Lewiston, has been credited with helping to revive the state's aging population with their younger families and helping boost the economy with their new businesses.
While many Somalis have been welcomed in Maine, there have also been instances of hostility to their growing presence.
In 2002, Lewiston's then-mayor Laurier T. Raymond wrote an open letter discouraging more Somalis from moving there. More recently, in August, police in Portland said they were investigating a series of anti-Muslim attacks, which mainly targeted the area's Somali community.