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Somalis 'should leave culture at door' remark by Maine mayor stirs outrage

Community leaders are demanding the resignation of a Maine mayor who said Somali immigrants living in his city should "accept our culture and leave your culture at the door.”

Organizers of Maine People's Alliance say the group has collected at least 1,400 signatures calling for Lewiston Mayor Robert E. Macdonald to step down over his remarks in September to the British Broadcasting Corp. that Somali immigrants were costing his city a lot of money, then saying they should ‘‘accept our culture and leave your culture at the door.’’

Attempts by NBC News to contact Macdonald or officials in the Lewiston mayor’s office were unsuccessful Thursday.

“It’s not just one remark, but a dozen or so,” Mike Tipping, spokesman for the Maine Alliance in Portland, Maine, told NBC News on Thursday. He said his group also created a video compilation of a dozen or so of the mayor's public remarks.

About 6,000 Somali immigrants have settled into this former mill town in search of affordable housing and a safe place to live.

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Somali community leaders said residents in the state’s second-largest city have been welcoming – except for the mayor.

"The remarks are painful, hurtful and display the mayor's ignorance about our community. We demand an apology and a plan from his office on how he will work to unite his city, not further divide it," said Jama Mohamed, Communications Director for Somali Bantu Youth, in a statement to NBC News.

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Macdonald has since tried to clarify his comments, saying immigrants should try and assimilate into American culture, not that they need to give up their language, religion or traditions.

The petition drive is meant as an expression of local sentiment as Lewiston has no formal recall procedure for its mayor, alliance members say.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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