As ThinkProgress has noted, Maine’s tea party-backed governor Paul LePage (R) has been embroiled in controversy in recent days after he refused invitations from the NAACP to attend events honoring Martin Luther King Day, and subsequently told the civil rights group to “kiss my butt.”
Yesterday, around 400 Maine residents braved freezing temperatures to honor King and to speak out against LePage’s comments. Portland’s Fox 13 reported that turnout was “larger than expected” as many were spurred to action by LePage’s remark. “Even though they gathered under the banner of ‘March for Justice,’ it was clear that governor LePage was the focal point of their frustration.” Watch Fox 13’s report:
Speaking to marchers on the steps of City Hall, Eric Smith, of the Maine Council of Churches, joked about LePage’s “butt” comment. “I believe Dr. King would have a message for us and a message for anyone who would dismiss us in such a manner: ‘Turn the other cheek,'” he said.
Marchers also spoke out against an executive order LePage signed on his first day in office cracking down on undocumented immigrants. The order, which was “LePage’s first major move as governor,” gives police officers more power to inquire about immigration status and aims to cut off state services to these immigrants. Maine has few undocumented immigrants but does have a large population of refugees from Somalia, Sudan, and elsewhere. “It’s not appropriate for our governor to push so hard trying to kick everybody out from the state,” said Mariano Mawien, a Sudanese community leader.