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Neo-Nazi group marches through Lewiston park

More than 20 people dressed in black marched through the park Sunday afternoon. Witnesses said it was an attack on Lewiston's refugee community.

LEWISTON, Maine — A normal Sunday afternoon at Kennedy Park in Lewiston is a peaceful time. But on Oct. 2, the scene was home to what the Anti-Defamation League calls a neo-Nazi group.

It's labeled Nationalist Social Club 131, a New England-based neo-Nazi group that broadcasts antisemitism and targets people of color, according to the ADL.

Video shared to NEWS CENTER Maine by the Twitter page, New England Anti-Fascist Action, showed nearly two dozen people dressed in black standing on the corner of Kennedy Park facing city hall.

"You know why I would wear a mask? Because I'm ashamed," a witness yelled at the crowd.

Earlier this year, the neo-Nazi group marched from Kittery to Portsmouth to protest a drag show. At another show in Boston, the group's leader, Chris Hood, was arrested for fighting in public.

Photos posted by the group to the far-right social media page Gab showed signs that city officials said, targeted Somalian people.

"Lewiston is a city of immigrants," Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline said. "This group is from out of town. It's my understanding they were here for about an hour and left."

On Oct. 18, Lewiston city counselors voted to approve a resolution, which they said condemns the presence of the neo-Nazi group.

"The resolution passed explicitly states we reject white supremacy, condemn white supremacist, and repudiates neo-Nazi groups. Lewiston has no appetite for such heinous acts displayed by these hate groups," Angelynne Amores, the marketing director for the city of Lewiston, said.

But Mayor Sheline said that counselors approved a "watered down" version of the original resolution he proposed.

"I am deeply disappointed with the amendment that was passed last night. This shouldn’t have been a debate. Council members should have clearly denounced neo-Nazism and white supremacy without watering down the resolution’s original clear message. Our entire city -- and particularly the people targeted by the neo-Nazi group -- deserves better," Sheline said in an email to NEWS CENTER Maine.

The resolution passed did not state any legal action against the neo-Nazi group.

Police told NEWS CENTER Maine there is nothing they could do about the march, as they said it did not infringe on anyone's safety.

But for people who had to see the neo-Nazis march through the park, the fear was felt deep. 

Julia Harper lives in Lewiston near Kennedy Park and said she saw the group while she was driving home.

"I like to think we embrace diversity as a whole. It's very concerning to see this display of hatred," Harper said.

On Oct. 5, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, called out the neo-Nazi march.

"We condemn this hateful display intended to intimidate the immigrant community of Lewiston and stand in solidarity with all those targeted by this white supremacist hate," CAIR National Communications Coordinator Ismail Allison said in a statement.

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