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Newly elected Portland charter commissioner faces backlash following tweets calling city manager 'white supremacist'

Nasreen Sheikh-Yousef won an at-large seat on Portland's charter commission this week. Now, she's facing calls to step down.

PORTLAND, Maine — A newly elected member of Portland's Charter Commission is facing calls to resign pushing out multiple tweets this week calling Portland City Manager Jon Jennings a "white supremacist." 

Nasreen Sheikh-Yousef took to Twitter early Wednesday morning writing, "Jon Jennings! You about to lose your job. We are going to make you the last white supremacist city manager. We are coming."

Sheikh-Yousef won an at-large seat on Portland's Charter Commission earlier in the week. Sheikh-Yousef campaigned on a platform that included eliminating the unelected city manager position. 

Following the tweets, however, she's facing backlash from Portland city officials, including City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau.

"You can disagree with our form of government, and you can want to change that, and that's a discussion that the charter commission will have and that's a discussion that our community should have. I think that's very different than a personal vendetta against an individual," said Thibodeau.

Later in the day Wednesday, Sheikh-Yousef took to Twitter once again calling Jennings a white supremacist.

"I think we need to ask ourselves, did we run for this position to work on the charter, our foundational documents, or did we run to call people white supremacists?" said Thibodeau.

City Manager Jennings faced criticism during Black Lives Matter events in Portland last summer. Many activists claimed Jennings supported and advocated for policies that negatively impacted people of color in the city. 

Thibodeau, however, defends his colleague. "This is not who he is, and not who we are as a city, and we do not speak like this," said Thibeau. 

On Thursday, Sheikh-Yousef said she would not apologize or step down from her position following criticism from Portland city officials. 

Some Portland residents stand behind Sheikh-Yousef and believe her words carry weight and should be taken seriously.

"When black, indigenous and other people of color are calling out what they believe is racism and white supremacy, our role as white people is to listen," said Portland resident Todd Ricker. 

Ricker says he understands comments like this can make white people feel uncomfortable, but it's important to listen to someone's lived experience of racism in the city.

"We don't have a role in this conversation except to learn everything we can, and to embrace the voices that are pointing out the way in which things are wrong," said Ricker. 

Ricker adds that he hopes comments like this can create a dialogue on racism and white supremacy in Maine. 

Sheikh-Yousef ran as part of the Rose Slate, a group of liberal, feminist, first-time candidates looking to create changes to the city charter. Fellow Rose Slate candidate, who won an at-large seat on the Charter Commission Pat Washburn wrote to NEWS CENTER Maine in a statement, "I believe that it is not my job to tell a Black woman what her lived experience is or how she should communicate about it."

Commissioner-elect Sheikh-Yousef and City Manager Jennings have not responded to NEWS CENTER Maine's request for comment.