LEWISTON — Lewiston’s City Council said Friday that a racial commentary by an Auburn council member this week was reckless, irresponsible and divisive.

“It is the Lewiston Mayor’s and City Councilors’ belief that Auburn City Councilor Leroy Walker’s attempt to simplify the achievements of John Jenkins through harmful stereotypes and unfounded rhetoric by way of distorting the reality of important issues only fosters negativity and divisiveness within our two cities,” the statement released early Friday said.

Leroy Walker Sun Journal file photo

Lewiston’s leaders said that “race is an issue that our communities cannot afford to ignore” and that “we will not accept racist comments that breed division, conflict, and disparagement.”

“The egregious remarks made by Councilor Walker were hurtful and detrimental to our communities,” according to the statement, one that amplified the concerns expressed in a release by Auburn’s council on Thursday.

Walker ranted at a public meeting Tuesday that “dark-colored people” who allegedly looted in the wake of Hurricane Ida in the South constituted “a black mark” against an esteemed African American who once served as Auburn’s mayor.

He delivered his commentary, based in part on phone calls he received from constituents, during a discussion of a proposal by Auburn and Lewiston to rename a pedestrian bridge across the Androscoggin River to honor John Jenkins, who served as mayor in Lewiston from 1994 to 1998 and later in Auburn.

Jenkins, who died last September, “was an exemplary man, mentor, community volunteer, and entrepreneur,” according to the Lewiston council said.

“He was the first African American ever to be elected to the Maine Senate and mayor of both Lewiston and Auburn,” it said, leaving behind “a legacy that is larger than life and filled with joy, happiness, humility, courage, and excellence.”

Lewiston officials said that Walker’s “sentiments do not align with how our governance views and protects its residents” and vowed that “his words will not derail our push for inclusivity, equality, and diversity.”

“As a Council, we have chosen to celebrate John Jenkins at a perfect time,” Lewiston leaders said.

They decried Walker’s words as “not only reckless and irresponsible but also divisive, especially at a time when the community needs unity.”

“This was a call for remembrance but not acknowledging Councilor Walker’s words sets a dangerous precedent for populations of color,” the Lewiston statement said.

“To all persons hurt by the comments made by Leroy Walker, specifically our communities of color, though we will never understand the anger, hurt, and fear attached to his words, we stand with you,” it said.

“As a collective, we must work together and forge alliances that dismantle the ideals portrayed in the words spoken by Leroy Walker,” it added.

“It is important not to only acknowledge John Jenkins as a black man,” Lewiston leaders said. “He was more than his race. He was (a) great man, a man who did NOT need to earn our respect; if anything, we hope the community of Lewiston and Auburn earned his.”

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.