Published April 14, 2021
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — In response to an incident on Sunday involving an outside group displaying a “White Lives Matter” banner on Main Street near the Common, the Town Council on Monday issued a proclamation condemning “all incidents of hate speech and racially motivated violence both in Wakefield and across the country, and declares its intention to adopt policies and practices that reaffirm Wakefield’s place as a welcoming community that values diversity and inclusion.”
An April 9, 2021 Newsweek story reported that rallies were being planned across the country.
“A number of cities across the U.S. are preparing for far-right ‘White Lives Matter’ marches taking place on April 11 which are being coordinated by extremists online,” the Newsweek story stated.
The conversation at Monday’s Town Council meeting began during the public participation segment at the start of the meeting and resumed later during discussion of a proclamation proposed by Councilor Jonathan Chines.
Daniel Lieber of Elm Street spoke during public participation and urged the board to “actively reject” the ideas of the group that visited Wakefield on Sunday. He talked about the symbols that the group uses and went so far as to suggest a parallel to local support of the Wakefield Warrior logo.
He called upon the Town Council to “take meaningful action to support our neighbors including those who are black, indigenous, people of color and others who are marginalized and tokenized.”
Maria Muti, chair of the Human Rights Commission, called on the Town Council to “condemn in the strongest possible terms the presence of a recognized neo-Nazi group in our town” on Sunday.
She urged the public to attend the next Wakefield Human Rights Commission meeting and share ideas for a further response to the incident.
Pina Masciarelli Patel of Fellsmere Avenue mentioned the immigrants in her own family and talked about the need to “celebrate who we are and stop the hatred.”
Town Council Chair Ann Santos said that she didn’t want to give added attention to the group and acknowledged the “a lot of people didn’t even know it was there,” adding, “We are better than this type of behavior.”
Chines then read his proposed proclamation. Some edits were made in the course of the discussion that followed.
Chines said that it was urgent for the Town Council to do something immediately “so people know we reject this behavior.”
Town Councilor Edward Dombroski said that he did not want to dignify such a fringe group by giving them attention that they don’t deserve.
“Why are we legitimizing the actions of a few people who came into town and did something deplorable?” he asked.
Councilor Paul DiNocco said that he agreed with condemning the actions of the group but feared that while denouncing what occurred the board was still drawing attention to it.
Dombroski wanted the proclamation to specifically state that the group was part of an outside organization and not Wakefield residents.
But Santos asserted that there were Wakefield residents “who would stand with this group.”
Chines claimed that, “We don’t know that they were not Wakefield residents.”
Councilor Mehreen Butt said that she “didn’t know” if it was a national group “or people from here.” She claimed that the group got horn beeps and “thumbs up” from drivers.
She said that the town had to “look at why it happened here,” and called for it to be the “start of a conversation.”
The Town Council vote to approve the proclamation was unanimous.
The following is the full-text of the proclamation:
“WHEREAS, the Town of Wakefield’s policies, procedures, and practices are intended to prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, disability, age, religion, veteran status, uniformed military service, sexual orientation, genetic information, pregnancy, marital status, gender identity or any other classification protected by law, and
WHEREAS, it is also the policy of the Wakefield Public Schools to prevent “harassment and discrimination based upon race, color, sex, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, limited English proficiency, disability, or housing status,” and
WHEREAS, Wakefield has experienced multiple incidents of hate speech and vandalism in recent years, including the recent display of a “White Lives Matter “ banner by members of a nationally recognized hate organization, and
WHEREAS, these incidents have occurred against a backdrop of increasing violence against communities of color across the United States, including the recent racially -motivated shootings targeted at Asian American women in the Atlanta area, and
WHEREAS, the number of hate crimes reported in the United States in 2019 reached its highest level in more than a decade, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified racism as a “serious public health threat that directly affects the well-being of millions of Americans,” and
WHEREAS, the Wakefield School Committee, Wakefield Town Council, and Wakefield Human Rights Commission, unanimously approved a resolution dated December 4, 2018 condemning racism, racially-motivated violence, anti-Semitism, and all forms of hate speech.
THEREFORE, be it resolved that the Town of Wakefield, through the elected members of its Town Council reaffirms its 2018 proclamation declaring that Hate Has No Home in Wakefield. The Town Council further condemns all incidents of hate speech and racially motivated violence both in Wakefield and across the country, and declares its intention to adopt policies and practices that reaffirm Wakefield’s place as a welcoming community that values diversity and inclusion.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, as duly voted by the Town Council , that this resolution be shared with school and municipal leaders in Wakefield and across our region to strengthen our collective fight against racism, hatred, institutional bias, anti-Semitism, and all forms of discrimination.”