Leaders declare Mass. ‘no place for hate’
Hundreds gather to decry election fallout
POLITICAL AND COMMUNITY leaders stood on the steps of the Massachusetts State House to speak out against acts of bigotry and violence that they say have surged in the wake of Donald Trump’s election as president.
Several hundred people gathered on a cold Monday morning as speakers vowed to confront racism and other forms of discrimination. A succession of state and civic leaders declared that Massachusetts is “no place for hate,” encouraging residents to speak out when they witness acts of discrimination.
“Silence is not an option,” Senate President Stan Rosenberg told the crowd at the rally, which was organized by the Anti-Defamation League and 30 other organizations.
Attorney General Maura Healey said a hotline her office set up to handle reports of hate crimes has received nearly 400 calls in less than a week.
She cited several of the incidents, including a Puerto Rican couple in West Springfield who had the words “go home” scratched onto their car, overnight delivery to doorsteps in Milford of Ku Klux Klan newspapers, and racist graffiti that appeared on a bathroom wall at Attleboro High School.
The State House steps were filled with a sea of Democratic elected officials and community leaders. The state’s Republican governor, Charlie Baker, did not attend – his office said he had scheduling conflict – but he sent a statement that was read by ADL New England director Robert Trestan.
“Our state will remain a safe and welcoming place to live, work, and raise a family,” read the governor’s statement. “The Baker-Polito administration rejects all forms of racism and discrimination and holds the duty of protecting the rights of all individuals in the Commonwealth above all else.”
Trestan and several other speakers called for a united front against discrimination that extends across the fault line that divided the country in the presidential race. “We come together as a community irrespective of who we voted for,” said Trestan. “We come together today not as Democratic, Republican, or independent.”
But some made clear it that they place blame for the incidents on Trump’s anger-fueled campaign and attacks on immigrants, Muslims, and others.
State Treasurer Deb Goldberg said she was not accusing Trump’s campaign directly of anti-Semitism or discrimination. “But I am accusing them of nurturing, mentoring, taking advantage of, and feeding the underbelly of the animal for their own interest,” she said. “They have pulled the cork out of the bottle and, from what I’ve seen, they’re not willing to put it back in. The few appointments we’ve seen tell the story,” she said of Trump’s early appointments, including former Breitbart News executive Steve Bannon, who was named White House chief strategist, and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who was tapped for attorney general, despite criticism of his civil rights record.
No Republican legislators appeared at the rally, and it might have been an awkward gathering for Baker to join as some speakers ripped the Republican president-elect.
Baker spoke out early in the campaign against Trump and said he did not cast a ballot in the presidential race. He has tried to strike a balance since the election, saying, for example, that he was concerned about the appointment of Bannon, but wants to wait and judge the new administration as a whole.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh pointed to his own background as the son of immigrants in vowing to “protect our neighbors.” He quoted Martin Luther King, saying “the hottest places in hell are for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality.”
“We should and need to be bipartisan,” said Walsh. “We need to find common ground. We should be tolerant of many different views. We should respect the democratic process. But we will not remain neutral when hate rears its ugly head.”
Harmann Singh, a first-year student at Harvard Law School, told the crowd he was harassed last week at a Cambridge store by a man who made disparaging references to Muslims. (Singh is, in fact, a Sikh.)
Such actions can “occur anywhere and to anyone,” said Singh. He said what happened to him “pales in comparison to what’s happening to people across the country.” But he said it was a chilling episode nonetheless because “no one at the store said a single thing to me or the man.”“At a moment when many of our brothers and sisters across the country do not feel safe in their own homes, we must stand up for those around us,” he said. “Bystander intervention is a simple and effective way to counter hate and intolerance. The most important thing we need to make sure that we do is that we do something.”