LEWISTON, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Lewiston Mayor Robert MacDonald took time to read a prepared statement and listen to members of the Somali community at the start of Tuesday night's city council meeting.
MacDonald said he wanted to clarify remarks he made recently to a documentary crew, that immigrants should 'leave their culture at the door'. He said the statement was taken out of context.
"I did not intend for my previous comments to be hurtful or upsetting," he said. "Again, I was speaking of my desire for immigrants to assimilate into the American way of life, not for them to change who they are or leave their culture behind."
MacDonald added that immigrants to Lewiston have enriched the diversity of the city and he is proud of those who have started businesses, attained US citizenship and become registered voters.
Leaders of the Somali community in attendance were invited to speak after MacDonald's remarks, and told the mayor that his statements were not enough. They asked him to apologize for saying what he said.
"Your comments were very hurtful. Your comments were saddening," said Mohamed Abdillahi. "Those comments that you made were, very truthfully, hurt my community and myself."
"We need to work together. You are our mayor," stated Garaad Dees. "You are the mayor of everybody. Antagonizing the community is not going to help."
MacDonald told the crowd he would no longer speak to the news media about the issue, and offered to meet with members of the Somali community next week to discuss ways to make the city a better place for everyone who calls it home.