Last month, two dozen Somali youths swarmed and attacked two Maine residents in a park in Lewiston, beating them with sticks while laughing, as video of the incident shows.
One of the victims was hospitalized, but no charges were filed.
Then, last Tuesday, a group of Somalis fired pellet guns at non-Somalis in the same park. A fight broke out and one non-Somali, a 38-year-old father of two, died days later from his injuries.
Kennedy Park in Lewiston has become the focal point of such clashes, according to reports.
Previously, a 10-year-old girl was jumped and beaten by a Somali girl at the park. As such occurrences become more common in Lewiston, many lifelong residents are now afraid to bring their own children to play.
Some residents say police officers tell them the safest thing would be not to bring their kids to the park anymore.
“Kennedy Park is a large common space in the middle of some of the poorest census tracts in the Northeast,” Mayor Shane Bouchard said. “When you have large, diverse groups of people in the same place you are bound to have incidents. Lewiston is no different in that respect than any other medium to large city, except that Lewiston’s violent crime rate is one of the lowest in Maine.”
Bouchard says these types of incidents are common at Kennedy Park, but points to Lewiston’s low crime rate.
“Our community resource officers are reaching out to the leaders in our new Mainer community,” Bouchard said. “While we are fighting a cultural barrier, outreach to these groups has been successful in the past, and we are hopeful we can make some progress.”
Boucher added: “While what we are seeing in our inner city right now is partially an issue of 20 years of terrible immigration policy, these issues were happening in Kennedy Park before the new Mainers arrived. Reversing that long of a span of poorly done immigration is going to take time.”
According to local news accounts, on any given day, dozens if not hundreds of Somali youth – most of them under 18, can be found occupying the park.
Last Friday, Donald Giusti, 38, died after being treated for injuries sustained in the latest melee in the park last Tuesday. He had been hospitalized ever since.
Police are investigating to determine whether there were racial elements to the fight, an assertion made by many in the aftermath of the brawl.
“There were certainly different ethnic origins involved in the fight,” Lewiston police Lt. David St. Pierre said. “I don’t know exactly how many. We get reports or I’ve seen on social media and other outlets that people are saying there are as many as 30 or 40 people from different ethnic backgrounds. I don’t know that to be accurate.”