LEWISTON — Standing Sunday morning just outside City Hall, leaders of the city’s ethnic, community and religious organizations delivered a message of peace and urged tolerance amid rising ethnic tensions in the downtown.

The group, which included more than 20 representatives, was joined by family and friends of Donald Giusti, 38, of Lewiston, who died Friday afternoon at Central Maine Medical Center from injuries he received Tuesday night during a brawl near Kennedy Park.

Witnesses said Giusti was beaten as two groups clashed near the downtown park. The brawl was said to have been the result of ongoing disputes between the two groups. Police have not publicly identified anyone who might have been involved.

Jim Thompson of Auburn, who is Giusti’s uncle, spoke emotionally about the family’s loss and its desire that “we need to learn to live together (because) this is what happens when we can’t do that.”

How many, he asked, “will have to die?”

“We need this to stop,” he said. “We need to work with police, and with each other to make it better.”


At the start of the news conference, Fatuma Hussein, executive director of the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine, read a statement on behalf of local immigrant leaders.

“Our community,” she said, “is proud to be part of this city. We express condolences to the family and friends of Donald Giusti.”

She called his death a tragedy and said, “Violence has no place in Lewiston.”

“We condemn what happened in the strongest terms,” Hussein said, adding that she hopes “Donald’s death will lead to reflection and a new peace” in the city, and that Kennedy Park will be viewed as a gathering place for everyone to enjoy.

Fowsia Musse, executive director of Maine Community Integration, said members of Lewiston’s ethnic community “fled from war-torn countries to come to the United States. We want peace. We came here for a safe haven.”

Noting that the ethnic community is itself in mourning after the drowning death Tuesday of Lewiston Middle School student Rayan Issa at Range Pond, Musse urged Lewiston to “be united in peace” and to not give in to violence.


Hussein was critical of misinformation being spread largely through social media about what prompted Tuesday’s attack and who was involved, and cautioned against identifying a certain ethnicity before the police investigation is complete.

She said the city’s ethnic community wants a better relationship with city police, and that the community is willing to work with police on the investigation.

Musse had stronger words for police, urging the department to address incidents of tension earlier, when concerns are first raised, to prevent further violence.

“Lewiston has a reputation of working together,” Musse said. “Together we can be stronger and fight outside influences” of intolerance.

Earlier this week, Lewiston police Lt. David St. Pierre said police are working to determine whether there were racial elements to Tuesday’s fight, an assertion made by many in the aftermath of the brawl.

Those assertions have circulated widely throughout social media, many of which have contained explicit threats of violence against immigrants living in Lewiston. That caused spokespeople for the Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Office and Maine Immigrant & Refugee Services to call for caution.


According to police, tensions have escalated at Kennedy Park over the past month, including at least three confrontations between groups.

The most recent clash that resulted in Giusti’s death started after teens in a car reportedly drove past the park and shot pellets and BBs at a group gathered there, according to Sun Journal sources who said they witnessed the events.

Several members of the group pursued the car to Knox Street, where a melee broke out, the teens reportedly wielding sticks, bats and bricks, sources said. During this altercation, Giusti was struck on the head.

“There were certainly different ethnic origins involved in the fight,” St. Pierre said Thursday. “I don’t know exactly how many,” but witness reports and social media posts suggest there were as “many as 30 or 40 people from different ethnic backgrounds.”

As of late in the week, police had not verified those accounts are accurate.

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