Sen. Millett statement on South Portland anti-bigotry resolution
AUGUSTA — Sen. Rebecca Millett, a Democrat who represents South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and part of Scarborough, offered testimony Monday night before the South Portland City Council, in support of its resolution “condemning violence and hate speech, expressing solidarity with Muslims and all those targeted for their ethnicity, race or religion.”
The resolution was approved by the City Council unanimously, with one councilor absent.
Below, please find Sen. Millett’s remarks, as prepared, in support of the resolution.
“Mayor Smith and members of the South Portland City Council, my name is Rebecca Millett, and I represent South Portland in the Maine Senate. It’s a pleasure to be here with you tonight. I want to lend my voice and my support to this resolution.
“Unfortunately, bigotry has deep roots in Maine. From long ago when our state played host to the first public Klan rally to just last week when the KKK made headlines in Maine again, distributing leaflets urging residents to call a white-supremacist “hotline.” When Somali immigrants fled from persecution, violence and war, some of them ended up in Maine. Unfortunately, small groups of people, some from Maine, some from other states, showed up to shout them down. With hate in their hearts, they told these new Mainers to ‘go back home.’
“Nationally, subtle appeals to xenophobic and racist sentiments have been the norm for longer than we’d like to admit. Recently, though, elected leaders in Washington and elsewhere have abandoned their dog whistles in favor of transparent efforts to deny legal immigrants their rights. Anti-Muslim rhetoric has made way for anti-Muslim policy at the highest levels of our government. The targeting of Muslims and immigrants has added fuel to hurtful and dangerous stereotypes, threatening the safety of Muslim Americans, including those right here in Maine.
“I believe it is critical for elected officials, like us, to speak up in the face of this resurgent intolerance. It’s crucial to speak up because while the bigots often can command the largest microphones, their voices are not the voices of most Mainers.
“When those Somali immigrants came to central Maine, the photos in the newspaper showed the white-supremacists who sought to intimidate them. What they didn’t show was the vast majority of Mainers who greeted them with open arms. They welcomed their new neighbors because that’s who we are. Whether they were the Franco-Canadian immigrants who built much of Maine’s manufacturing cities, or the European migrants and their descendants who built Victory Ships right here in South Portland. For all the ribbing we give to tourists about being ‘from away,’ we all know deep down that as often as not, Maine’s success stories have been the success stories of people who came here from far away.
“We have to speak up, with our words and our actions, not just for the Mainers who face the daily injustices of bigotry and intolerance, but for the overwhelming number of Mainers who we represent, who harbor neither hatred nor ill will toward New Mainers, regardless of their faith, the color of their skin or the language on their tongues.
“Thank you for doing your part.”