Maine small business owners join national campaign to reject racism and hatred
Across the country today, business owners displayed signs at their stores to show their opposition to the increasingly hateful and violent rhetoric from national political leaders. The signs, produced by the Main Street Alliance and the Maine Small Business Coalition, state, “Hate Has No Business Here. We stand with our Muslim community members. We stand with refugees and immigrants in our community. All are welcome here.” The national campaign grew out of statements by Republican presidential candidates to bar entry to the US for asylum seekers and to prohibit Muslims from entering this country.
Heather and Randy Letourneau, co-owners of Guthrie’s Place in Lewiston, said they hung a sign because of America’s proud history of openness to immigrants:
“In a country founded by refugees and immigrants, it seems painfully un-American to discriminate against newly relocated peoples as they search for safety, opportunity and prosperity for themselves and their loved ones. Our ancestors were once in this position and our good fortune is a result of their bravery and vision. Let us welcome those in need and help them begin anew, it is our heritage and so it is our duty.”
Many business owners noted the economic benefit that immigrants and asylum seekers can bring to a state like Maine that has an older-than-average population. A recent report by the Bangor Daily News urged Portland to follow the lead of other aging cities like Dayton, Ohio; Nashville, Tennessee; and Boise, Idaho, in aggressively encouraging immigration for the sake of the local economy.
“Our businesses have long depended on those from abroad as both employees and customers,” said Dory Waxman, co-owner of Old Port Wool & Textile Company and American Roots, both in Portland. “If someone has the courage and drive to escape brutal repression in their home country, with the hope of starting a better life, they will certainly make their new home community and economy more vibrant.”
This campaign has local meaning – and importance – for John Costin, who owns Veneer Services Unlimited in Kennebunk and serves on the Steering Committee of Maine Small Business Coalition.
“It’s not just national leaders that use racism and xenophobia to divide our country,” he said. “It’s here in Maine, too. From posters in Lewiston attacking a mayoral candidate’s ethnicity, to legislative attempts to deny General Assistance to asylum seekers, to the xenophobic social media messages of multiple Republican legislators, the hate has trickled down to our local communities. That’s why I put up this poster: to let everyone know that my business is a safe place for all.”
Photos of the signs and of business owners holding them at their stores can be viewed at http://www.facebook.com/mainesmallbusiness/.