Mosque parking raises heat at meeting

LEWISTON — Councilors asked Bartlett Street neighbors to talk to each other, hoping to head off bigger problems smoldering between members of a mosque and nearby property owners.

Former City Councilor Denis Theriault, owner of two buildings on the west side of Bartlett Street, just north of Adams Avenue, told councilors he shouldn't have to work so hard defending his property.

"This happens all the time. These are a confrontational people," Theriault said. "I'm tired. I don't think I should have to spend my nights playing policeman protecting my property, and neither should my son."

He outlined problems he and neighbor Elmer Berry have with the mosque, located across from him at 256 Bartlett St. and used by Lewiston's Somali Bantu residents, over two hours Tuesday night at a City Council workshop.

Theriault alleged members of the mosque have regularly parked on his property, taking spaces from his tenants, since the mosque opened last year. When he complained, they escalated. They've used their cars to block his driveways, left trash behind, thrown rocks onto his property and destroyed his first "No Trespassing" sign.

He responded by putting up a sturdier sign and taking pictures to document what he saw.

They responded, he said, by verbally threatening him. But Theriault, who carries a concealed handgun, said he will not be threatened.

"One individual approached me and came onto my property and told me I didn't have the right to take his picture," Theriault said. "When his companion walked around to my side, I unzipped my jacket and put my hand on my weapon."

Theriault said the city made a mistake when it approved the mosque for that space last year.

"It's almost like the Somalis have been set up to fail," he said. "They don't belong in a building that size for what they want to do. But they're there."

The city approved the use of the building at 256 Bartlett St. as a mosque in November 2009, requiring building owner Joseph Jenkins to provide 17 parking spaces nearby and to limit occupancy to 98 people at a time. City officials believed that more spaces were unnecessary since most people attending the mosque would walk or carpool.

Code Enforcement and Planning Director Gil Arsenault said the city recognized the limited parking in the lot. It has space for up to seven vehicles on site, but only if members drive on property belonging to next-door neighbor, Sparta Vending owner Elmer Berry.

Theriault said the Somalis do not have that permission. Berry has started putting up traffic cones to block his property from the neighbors.

The city required the mosque to rent the rest of their necessary spaces from 199 Bartlett St. That lease ends in February 2011 — and so does the mosque's conditional-use permit. They'll have to find additional parking or find a new place to worship.

Mosque member Abdul Ali, speaking for the elders in charge of the mosque, said it rarely draws more than 40 worshipers. The only time larger crowds are expected are during the two Eid holy days. The most recent was Nov. 17.

Ali said the members are negotiating to find a larger venue for those special occasions. But he said no single person is in charge of the mosque and urged Theriault to simply tow the cars of people that park in his lot.

Theriault said that was his plan.

"Beginning tonight, it's an immediate tow order on any car that is not supposed to be parked there," Theriault said.

Councilors asked Theriault, Berry and city staffers to meet with the members of the mosque, scheduling a meeting by this Friday.

"It's unacceptable that this is happening," Councilor Renee Bernier said. "You can't just go parking on people's property, so we need to get this sorted out before it gets worse."

staylor@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

If they don't have enough

If they don't have enough parking, why was the permit issued? Were they set up to fail, or was some city official trying to make sure that the city wasn't opening itself up to a potential lawsuit when the somalis played the race card?

Maybe they should rent out a portion of the bates mill? Theres plenty of parking there and it is still within walking distance of city slums. It's a win-win for everybody; someone finally uses the mill, and no more illegal parking, no vandalism, and no more attempting to intimidate armed property owners.

Seriously though; you try to flank the guy on the street, you're lucky you didn't get shot.

Roger Castonguay's picture

123 Churches?

I think you exaggerated the amount of churches in Lewiston. I would say there are 20-30 at the most.There's no way they out number the Chinese restaurants in town.

Roger Castonguay's picture

I was joking about the amount

I was joking about the amount of Chinese Restaurants, but not the amount of Churches. So if you disagree then show me where you get 123 churches. I've lived here for 40 years and recall ever seeing that many. Prove me wrong and I'll shut up.

Roger Castonguay's picture

To all those who feel the

To all those who feel the need to disagree follow the link and read the section area churches.http://www.ci.lewiston.me.us/clerk/genealogy.htm

 's picture

get a bigger place?

Instead of sending money home to other countries... build a place or find a place larger

 's picture

Lost

What's being lost in all of your screaming and blind hatred is the sentiment from the Somali elders who support Theriault in towing cars that don't belong there. Seems to me that this is more of an age issue than a race or religion issue. But that argument takes reason and reading skills, two things sorely lacking in the world of the SJ commentors.

Diane Tierney's picture

mbthedragon , what the

[This comment was removed by the administrator]

 's picture

All I can say is...

[This comment has been removed by the administrator]

Diane Tierney's picture

I agree with Mr. Theriault

[This comment has been removed by the administrator]

RONALD RIML's picture

Right - Shoot him in the butt and go to jail.

Then someone else gets the parking spot while you get something in the butt.

That's some real constructive thinking there, BearBug

Diane Tierney's picture

AGREE

I completely agree with you ! Have you looked around and listened? WE... the ones who have lived our entire lives here, paid our taxes and worked hard our whole lives, are the ones who's freedoms and liberties are being taken away. And WHY? Because the Somali Elders may get offended ? Big deal . How many of their people keep doing things that offend us, and no one does a dam thing about it, except for make excuses for them, and coddle them. So now they know they will never be held responsible for anything "bad" they do, they go on ahead, and do just what ever they want to do, thinking they are better then the rest of us. And we are suppose to take it all in stride and take it all quietly. That BS !! I won't buy this paper either, because they are VERY partial, and too afraid they may offend the wrong person ! SO it is easier for them to just remove our comments if it is something THEY don't agree with, and take away OUR freedom of speach. Now if a Somali made a comment that offended every single one of us....the good old S&J would leave it be. They will take away OUR freedom of speech, but not theirs! Maybe they should just rename themselves "The Somali Gazette" or something.

RONALD RIML's picture

So What Freedoms and Liberties are being taken away??

Because some Somalian Elder might be offended.

Care to enumerate them.......???

Do you live in Somalia now, Diane - that you are no longer in Lewiston??

 's picture

The problem with these people

The problem with these people is a cultural clash with our way of life and beliefs. In some cases stupidity and a lack of knowledge drives their actions, in others growing up in a culture of 'take what you can, while you can' is the norm. I fear it is going to take a very long time (if ever) before these people truly integrate into our community and way of life.

RONALD RIML's picture

"Pop-up Blocker?"

He probably thinks that's something to keep his Junk from being noticed......

RONALD RIML's picture

Call me a Tow Truck!!!

"- O.K.... Yer a Tow-Truck..... Happy now???"

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Good job, Ben.

Good job, Ben.

 's picture

It's time for the immigrants to adopt us as we have adopted them

It’s time to take of the kid gloves. There is no doubt that a large number of Somali’s in this Country arrived as refugees. Those days are over. They are no longer refugees. They are members of the community and need to start acting like it. There seems to be a disconnect between respect for the community and law and a sense of entitlement. I have a great deal of empathy for the atrocities that brought many Somali’s to our shores. However, my empathy is fading and I am now expecting that they assimilate into THEIR new Country of choice.
Hold onto your Somali identity and religious beliefs but join the rest of us in a show of community. I see the words “racism” and “racist” being tossed around far too freely. This is no way appears to be “racist”. It feels more like a group of people have decided that the rules the rest of the neighborhood live by don’t apply to them. They do. They apply to all of us.
I love the idea of the infusion of culture and color into our communities. I love the idea of the expanding world exposure we get with each growth spurt of immigrants and non WASP residents to our area. It betters us all.
Part of the problem in my estimation is the unwillingness of the new arrivals to assimilate and adapt their culture into our existing culture and the overwhelming willingness for the natives to give up the existing culture as to pacify the new arrivals. Not allowing school kids to have a Halloween or Christmas party is obscene. I am not a practicing Christian but would not ever advocate the elimination of the grade school Christmas party. People who don’t know to shut their mouths when the National Anthem is playing or being performed is obscene. Referring to The President of The United States of America by his surname only, instead of as President Obama or President Bush is obscene.
It is not okay to be politically correct for the sake of being politically correct. We are America. We are Americans. This is how it is done here. If doing it the Somali way was superior it wouldn’t be a Country of tribes and tribal wars with a near complete lack of law and order and respect for the human condition. It is time for our Somali neighbors to start adapting their traditional lifestyles into the existing community. It is what our grandparents did, it is what their parents did, it is what some of our parents did and some of us had to do. We brought our baggage with us, we adapted what made sense to adapt and we adopted new ideals and practices and we left a lot behind. That’s life. That’s why we are successful as a Nation.
It’s not a mistake that we are the youngest Nation on the planet but yet the most powerful. Even now, as we muddle through high unemployment, financial adversity, housing busts, and so on is there a place on earth that any of us would rather be? It is the commitment to the idea of the USA that has made it possible. Even during these adverse times we are united as one.
We are one Nation acting in unison represented by a bevy of nationalities and religions. We cannot be a bevy of nationalities and religions all going in their own direction acting in their own interest and still expect to reach our common goal. It is time to start expecting the Somali members of our community to start acting like they are members of the community at large. Enough quarter has been given. It’s time for the rubber to hit the road and for the immigrants to adopt us as we have adopted them.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The parrot sez, "They're

The parrot sez, "They're either Americans or they ain't. And if they ain't, they should go back to their native land." And that's coming from a liberal.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Who, at the SJ thought it was

Who, at the SJ thought it was a good idea to bombard us with those intrusive drop down advertisements? The place has become a mine field of annoyance.
(I know, I know; If you don't like it, go somewhere else. Heard it all before.)

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Roger that, DW

Roger that, DW

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"WTF"......The parrot thinks

"WTF"......The parrot thinks it means "wash the floor". Keeps saying it isn't his turn. Dumb bird.

 's picture

So much for FREE

Well so much for freedom of speech because my comment was removed for tell the truth about the way most of the peeps in the STATE OF MAINE THINK about these people and how there is NO reguard for others property or rights. What is needed is for the new governor do to is cut off the welfare for people that are not residents of the State for at leasy 1 yr. then we'll see a big difference.

RONALD RIML's picture

armymom's ignorance is showing - that case long decided...

Preaves doesn't have to scream - that case has lo-o-o-ng been decided.

Where the hell you been, armymom - out cleaning latrines??? You don't even know about your own freedoms - what the hell kind of American are you??

Better bone up on some U.S. Supreme Court decisions - Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652 (1925) being the prime one here.

That decision by SCOTUS ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution extended the reach of certain provisions of the First Amendment—specifically the provisions protecting freedom of speech and freedom of the press—to the governments of the individual states.

In other words, the state can't come in and delete sections of the paper. By the way - you can thank the ACLU for assisting lead plaintiff on that one.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

You're on a roll, today,

You're on a roll, today, armymom

RONALD RIML's picture

Freedom of Speech restricts Govt - Not private censorship.

If you want or claiom to be an American, at least learn what the Constitution and Bill of Rights are all about.

 's picture

This is a civil matter

The difference is pretty straightforward. I used to drive a tow truck and resolving disputes between property owners and drivers was always interesting.

Any property owner who has had to have an illegally parked vehicle removed will attest to this: "It's a civil matter." The police will not get involved. Sure, if the tow operator feels uncomfortable, the police might be summoned to deter violence. That would be extent of their assistance, though.

I'm pretty sure the city will _only_ have your vehicle towed if it is blocking a public right of way. That's it. So if you were to park lengthwise across two handicap spaces, you will get a very nasty ticket, but your car will not be towed. Other jurisdictions probably have much different laws.

If a car is parked in an unauthorized manner, it is the landowner who is the judge of this. The landowner has sole discretion on having the car removed from his property. In fact, there is a disclaimer signed between the tow operator and the landowner granting permission to take possession of the car.

The only thing that will happen if Mr. Theriault elects to have these illegally parked vehicles removed is the conflict will be transferred out of the public eye. When the owner of the vehicle learns that the charges to have his car released top $100, tempers will flare in dramatic fashion. I would like to see the Sun Journal covering that. Be sure to bring an interpreter.

RONALD RIML's picture

As you English did to the Native Americans, Mr. Wilson.....

Life's a beech and then you die.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Yeah, but Tonto's revenge is

Yeah, but Tonto's revenge is alive and well. I'ts called TOBACCO.

 's picture

...and Mohegan Sun.

...and Mohegan Sun.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Well stated, fedupinlewiston

Well stated, fedupinlewiston

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

As you so often do, Ben; I

As you so often do, Ben; I think you just nailed it.

 's picture

If we did start a war, would

If we did start a war, would someone else take them?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

It only becomes about racism

It only becomes about racism when the libs with the bleeding hearts bring up the matter of race.
I't's about owning property in Lewiston and having this property being used without the owner's pemisssion. The owner has his rights and he has the right to defend this property. These people own nothing and therefore do not relate to property ownership and the responsibilities that go with it. The park on Theriault's property illegally? Tow 'em away and make them WALK THE PLANK!!!

RONALD RIML's picture

Thanks to the Somali's, et al......

The Francophobes have been replaced by Racists......

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Racist is so frequently used

Racist is so frequently used frivolously these days that it has really lost its meaning. I don't even get bothered by the term anymore. Think I'm a racist? Think away....who cares. Opinions are opinions and in the case of Theriault vs. the Somali mosque goers, it's not racism. How about labling the Somalis racists for violating the property rights of a white man? See how ridiculous that sounds? See how ridiculous racist sounds in reference to this whole story?

RONALD RIML's picture

You brought it up - I just played along....

Do you think there would be all of this Tempest in a Teapot if we were talking White mainline Christians parking their cars there?

Of course not. And they are just as big of block-heads who feel as entitled to any parking spot they can grab. BTDT and had to deal with them in another town and time.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

If one will peruse the

If one will peruse the screen, it will be revealed that the first use of the word "racism" was used by Madeleine in her 5:40 am post.
However, I doubt that there would be such a clamor were the illegal parkers non-Somalians, but I doubt that the situation would go without some sort of conflict, but perhaps not to this level.
Let's face it, matters involving Somalis in L/A DO get the juices of humanity flowing. Probably don't have those problems in E. Boothbay, eh?

RONALD RIML's picture

Problems in East Boothbay? Au Contraire!!!

The natives get very restless in their shacks and trailers when we PFA's (People From Away) come in, pay taxes, and wish to have a voice in our governance......

Boothbay (in which the Village of East Boothbay, along with Trevett, Barter's Island - where one can get married, then divorced in Cumberland County yet still remain brother and sister - along with many other little small boroughs, burgs, and burps - doesn't have a PD as does the Town of Boothbay Harbor. Our Selectmen tell us that they get all of the crime information that they need (not from regular Lincoln County Sheriff's Reports - which they got none) but from reading the Boothbay (Fishwrap) Register. Needless to say, it came to them as a surprise when our local State Representive had his car shot up right before the election (pellet gun) and they didn't know about it as the paper didn't get have it, and they don't bother talking to the Sheriff's Office. No Andy and Barney show here.... But they all jumped on cue when a few residents complained about a newly installed 'Speed Bump' that the outgoing Town Manager had installed and they were aware of for months. The one thing they are good at is counting votes. The Chairman of the Board of Selectman stocks shelves at the local Hannaford - he tells me he stands on his record - I answered: "That's the Problem!"

We had a tavern for a bit in an area in which the zoning forbid taverns. Code Enforcement Officer at the time obviously never saw a tavern he didn't like. Neighborhood grouches such as myself complained about it to no avail and warned that there were problems. One of the bartenders wrapped himself around a tree as a parting gesture one evening, and we weren't allowed to comment on his demise at a Selectmen's Meeting. Nothing like the "Good Ol' Boys' Network.

Think I'm a pain here?? You should see me in person..... They shudder when I come in to meetings and ask me if I'm on my meds.....LOL

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I stand corrected; makes L/A

I stand corrected; makes L/A look pretty dull.

 's picture

Troubled

What troubles me the most about this story and subsequent comments are "hands on weapons" and "fingers on triggers". I'm getting a vision of Theriault or Job Public ending up in prison for assault or worse. Violence is not the answer people. Put those guns back in their safes.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

If they threaten him in any

If they threaten him in any way, he has the right to defend himself and protect his property.

 's picture

arghhh

Was your hand on your sword when you wrote that?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

You been peeking in my

You been peeking in my windows again?

 's picture

Opportunity

My fear is that some folk who like to pack are looking for an opportunity to "defend" themselves.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

That's true and often a

That's true and often a matter of concern. But, if a person goes through the hassle of getting himself legally permitted to conceal carry, then, he should not hesitate to exercise ALL of his legal rights in the event of a real threat of bodily harm to himself or loved ones. I'm not sure I agree, though, that all "packers' are out looking for a fight.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

While Frank Sinatra sings,

While Frank Sinatra sings, "Stormy Weather", the flies and the spiders get along together.....

 's picture

Great Idea

[This comment was removed by the administrator]

 's picture

This is not good PR for the

This is not good PR for the Somali community, but then again, from my experiences with them on Lisbon Street, where I worked for 20+ years until we moved in 2008, I don't think it's in their mindset to care. They have a 100% focus on their rights, though, and know how to play the race card to their advantage. Sadly, our city officials go along with this BS instead of treating them as they would anyone else, which in the end actually makes things worse. Everyone wants to be treated the same. No preferential treatment.

 's picture

This I know from having

[This comment has been removed by the administrator]

 's picture

they do what they want

where ever these people are they DO do whatever they want!! they cut me off in traffic withpout a blinker ALL THE TIME!

RONALD RIML's picture

My guess would be that this is 'Private Property'

Over which the "No Parking" signs do not have the 'Force of Law' - at least that is the way it worked in Illinois. The property owner would have to sign authorization for the tow, and would be liable for the cost of removal. It may be a completely different matter here. Perhaps someone who has the facts could enlighten us.

 's picture

Agree with whitewash

Bosco has made extremely valid points here. I also like the end of the presentation when Theriault quoted from a 2008 Mayoral e-mail in which Larry Gilbert had advised all the Councillors that the defiant, unsupervised Somali youths need to be dealt with soon, and that within 2 years if nothing is done, he thinks they'll be wreaking untold havoc to the point of probably even taking lives. Theriault added that when his Mayor... a long time ex-Police Chief and former U.S. Marshall makes a statement like this, he takes it VERY seriously! Mayor Gilbert was speechless when confronted with his own words. He demanded the e-mail then and there, even paused the meeting which was running way overtime to read it, in a feeble attempt to put his own quote into some (more diversity loving) context, but couldn't find any. His red face was priceless. I would love to see that e-mail make print. It would be interesting to see how the Mayor, our cheerleader for diversity, really feels!

 's picture

Typical ignorance....

[This comment has been removed by the administrator]

 's picture

The problem seems to be....

[This comment was removed by the administrator]

 's picture

Sun journal white wash

Seems like the sun journal wanted to minimize and sanitize this issue. Quite simply, where in the story is the subject of the city exploring building them a parking lot. Where in the story is the matter of dumping human feces on Mr Berry's property. How about the part of the comment of their representative saying it is not their problem. That is the problem, these people are scamming the city. The state closes a market for being filthy, so the meat gets delivered to the mosque. Anyone else would be in jail, they constantly get a pass. They come here and abuse every system. They should be treated fairly and equally, no special rights. Wait and see, one of two will happen, they will get a taxpayer funded parking, or a taxpayer funded move to another lot. How about the city council president being their representative. Mr Morgan used extremely poor judgement, of course instead of watching for the taxpayer, he is watching his bottom line, no where in the story is Mr Morgans role, the term whitewash applies, of course that term will color me a racist also.

 's picture

Please be respectful of one another...

Well, I don't believe that anyone should be allowed to violate someone elses rights. No one has the right to park on private property without the owners permission. Allowing anyone to break the law is a green light for everyone else to do it too. We all have laws that govern over us, and no matter the color of our skin or religion we have to abide by the law. So if laws are being broken then this is a matter for the police. Why can't everyone just be respectful of one another. If the Somali people have nowhere to park so they can attend their services at their mosque, then something needs to be done to afford them a place to park. I attended St. Patricks church for years. There was times that we too could not find a place to park and had to park the next street over and walk. It was an inconvinence, yet, attending Mass was that important to our family and I parked where I could and we walked the rest of the way. I would hope this is not just more racisim against the Somali community....because that would really be low. All these people want to do is worship God.

"Councilors asked Theriault, Berry and city staffers to meet with the members of the mosque, scheduling a meeting by this Friday."??? This is the first thing that should of happened, not the last!

 's picture

I'm a pagan and although I

I'm a pagan and although I know spiders have a place in the universe, I still find them ewwie and quite often do not afford them safe passage from my home.

 's picture

You disagree that I'm a pagan

You disagree that I'm a pagan or that spiders are eewie?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Another great post by

Another great post by armom.
C'mon you disagreers; chime in. You're making the rest of us look pretty good.

 's picture

God's word stands...really?

God's word stands...really? Is that why we're entering into the season of Yule, a pagan holiday the early Christians usurped and called the birth of thier lord in order to turn the masses in Euope? Come on...where did the "Christmas" tree come from? Talk to me, Maddy.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Is it me or is someone

Is it me or is someone beginning to unravel?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Madeleine: In your 5:40 am

Madeleine:
In your 5:40 am post you wrote..."There were times that we too could not find a place to park and had to park the next street over and walk"...
If our Somali brothers and sisters showed the same respect and sense of "responsibility" towards the property of others, there probably wouldn't BE a problem, would there?

 's picture

Now Nancy 1, if you're going

Now Nancy 1, if you're going to invoke religion and the Bible into this I have something to say. A talking snake convinces a naked woman to eat fruit in a garden which in turn makes all of mankind evil sinners Then a young Virgin gives birth to a boy who during his lifetime performs miracles. He is then executed and like a vodoo priest rises from the dead. Hum it all makes perfect sense if you believe in cults.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Lol...That even got a cackle

Lol...That even got a cackle out of the parrot.

RONALD RIML's picture

If, as 'armymom' sayclaims - "Islam is (as) violent, jealous....

disrespectful and terrorizing"

Then the members of the mosques would have no problems clearing out parking areas as we cleared out Fallujah.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

If the locals have anything

If the locals have anything near the weaponry you had in Fallujah, we've got BIGGER problems than we think.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Great point, armymom

Great point, armymom

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

You see white power; some see

You see white power; some see property owner's rights. You probably don't own property, so you may have trouble grasping the concept.

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