Westbrook Pointe apartment complex in the town of Westbrook, Maine was a meeting point where hundreds of residents joined hands making up a circle. One by one, each person shouted out and words like ‘understanding and togetherness’ could be heard by passersby.
The event was a joint effort, organized by the New England Arab American Organization and Westbrook Community Services. It was a gesture of solidarity between Westbrook residents, non-Muslim and Muslim. Threatening messages had been sent to individuals living the apartment complex, and the community decided to attempt to straighten things out.
Small typed messages on notepaper were left in the building, and the Westbrook police were looking into it. The messages read as follows: “All Muslims are Terrorists should be Killed.” Four notes were discovered on August 17 which were either stuck on the ground or to the cars in the parking lot. The notes were a cause for concern among the Muslim immigrants, most of whom were Iraqi. They were able to meet later with police officials to discuss the matter.
Police Chief Janine Roberts, joined the circle along with fellow officers. She said that there had been no further progress made into the investigation and that it has been assumed that the threats occurred in response to news reports regarding Adnan Fazeli, a Maine refugee who was radicalized and went to Lebanon where he was killed fighting for the Islamic State and was killed. It had been reported that Fazeli had occupied an apartment in the Westbrook Pointe complex for a short period.
Zoe Sahloul, Director of the New England Arab American Organization, working at their premises located at the Westbrook Community Center, emphasized that the event was held to let the community at Westbrook Pointe realize “that they’re not alone.” She emigrated from Lebanon in the 1990s and knew only too well how isolated newcomers could feel at times. The organization currently has fifty-six individuals who have enrolled so far.
During the event, a large ribbon was tied to trees on the grounds where people were able to write their thoughts and prayers on pieces of paper cut out in the shape of butterflies. Children from different backgrounds and cultures played sport and rode their bicycles together. For the adult residents, however, the written threats reminded them of why they left their homelands to come to America.
Sahloul hoped that the circle would give the residents some encouragement in knowing that they have the support of their community. She said: “I really believe in Maine and the city, and how wonderful it is. I really hate to see this one incident causing all this negativity.”