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Racist effigy left at Black candidate’s sign in Everett

Liz Neisloss / GBH
Racist effigy left at Black candidate’s sign in Everett
Guerline Alcy, Everett City Council candidate. PHOTO: COURTESY GBH NEWS

An Everett City Council candidate wants to know who left a racist effigy beneath one of her campaign signs. Guerline Alcy, who is Black and a 30-year resident of the city, was alerted to the vandalism by a friend who shared a photo with her. The image showed a plastic head with the skull burned black, the nose and mouth cut off, and what looks like rags stuffed in the mouth. A vulgar term for a woman is scrawled on the face.

“It looks premeditated, it looks like the person took their time, you know, to burn the head of the object, cut the mouth out, cut the nose — as if that’s what they want to do to me, and burn me to shut me down,” said Alcy.

Surveillance footage from a nearby convenience store shows two people, both white, holding something on a stick while walking toward Alcy’s campaign sign. They then planted that stick in the chain link fencing under the sign.

“I’m kind of shocked. I thought after last year, you know, all the bad people we eliminated and were on our way to a better city,” said Michael Marchese, a current council member and Alcy’s friend who owns the property where her campaign sign was posted. “But to be honest with you, I was caught off guard by this.”

This racist act comes during a campaign season in which Alcy is among a record number of people of color running for Everett City Council. Eight of the 27 candidates in the primary are people of color. It’s the most diverse field in the city’s history and may be an indication that anger over racism in local politics is turning to action.

The majority of the city’s residents are people of color, but nearly all government officials are white.

Kisan Upadhaya, who is of Nepali origin, said the issue of racism in Everett drove him to run for City Council this year. He said he attends many city meetings and has been struck by the lack of representation for people of color.

“Because of the diversity we have here, I think the City Council should also be diverse so they can understand the needs of the diverse people,” said Upadhaya, a six-year resident of Everett who owns a convenience store on Everett’s Main Street.

The race also features a former city councilor who has launched a campaign to win back his old seat after he was forced to resign for sharing racist memes and racist jokes in conversation with other city officials.

Despite calls for his resignation, Anthony DiPierro remained on the Everett City Council for months after the racist memes were discovered, leading to community protests and walkouts by Everett high school students in spring 2022.

Everett Residents Michael and Jarrett Russo at a rally in front of Everett City Hall in May 2022. PHOTO: LIZ NEISLOSS

DiPierro says he’s completed a 10-week certificate course at Suffolk University in diversity, equity and inclusion. He said he learned about “humility, privilege … and really building an inclusive community.”

“I’ve made mistakes. I’ve apologized for them and I’ve worked to be a better person since then,” said DiPierro, adding, “I think I was made out to be something I’m not.”

Marchese sees DiPierro’s fast return to politics as reopening fresh wounds in the city.

“He thinks he goes to a class for a week that all of a sudden he’s, you know, absolved of everything he did,” Marchese said. “Maybe him being in the race is bringing back this whole culture again.”

In addition to last year’s racist incidents involving city officials, Everett Public Schools Superintendent Priya Tahiliani and her deputy are suing Mayor Carlo DeMaria and other officials for racism and discrimination. It all led to a Justice Department investigation of possible civil rights violations in city government.

Everett police and the mayor’s office both refused to comment on the ongoing investigation into the effigy discovered near Alcy’s campaign sign.

She wants those responsible to be found and prosecuted.

“I think when people are looking at this, they should be worried. They should be worried that in 2023 that someone wants to burn someone down because they are running for office,” she said.

Alcy is a former City Hall employee and is well known in Everett. This is her second run for City Council, and she is known for speaking out about race and the lack of representation for people of color in city politics.

“I was told that I have a big mouth. I am going to continue to have a big mouth until they realize that they need to do work,’’ she said. “They need to stand up for the community and not abuse us.”

Liz Neisloss is a reporter for GBH News’ Greater Boston.

Everett, Everett City Council race, racism