The Human Rights Commission (HRC) is establishing a task force that will look at setting up a public forum or mediation to address issues some residents have with the commission.
Since late last year, a small group of residents and other meeting attendees have disrupted the monthly HRC meetings, calling for the abolishment of the commission and raising concerns about issues like the Black Lives Matter movement, Critical Race Theory and the end of Columbus Day celebrations. Several of those meetings were ended early by HRC Chair Janine Grillo Marra as the disruptions got out of hand. The April meeting ended before the HRC got to the public forum portion of the meeting, much to the consternation of some of the commission’s critics in attendance.
The latest meeting of the HRC on May 5 was mostly a more ordered affair, by recent standards, as the commission made it to the public forum. Several residents raised their concerns about the direction of the HRC, while one woman who identified herself as Mary Santos took her time at the podium to explain why she was dressed as a mayonnaise bottle (for Cinco De Mayo).
Several Revere residents did use the public forum as an opportunity to voice their support for the HRC. “It’s an honor and a privilege to be up before you, and I truly applaud all the work you’ve been doing,” said Ed Deveau. “It’s something that has been a long time needed, and I’m glad to see it.”
During the business portion of the meeting, the HRC discussed setting up several working groups to help streamline the work the commission does. In addition to events, education and evaluation working groups, the commission agreed to establish a task force that would set up a public forum or mediation to address the concerns that have been raised by critics of the HRC.
“I recognize there are matters to be addressed and have heard the call out for a public mediation in a meeting and we will grant that meeting, so that is something we will work towards: creating the space to have this discussion about the existence of the HRC and get clear about what our priorities are moving forward and where do we stand in the city regarding the abolishment of the HRC,” said Dr. Maritsa Barros, the HRC Director. “Of course … we are here to stay, but I encourage folks, please, any of those thoughts and feelings you want to express, just hold on because we will create the place for that discussion to happen.”
During the public forum, frequent HRC critic Gina Castiello claimed that the HRC is pushing Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory ideas throughout the city and the school system. “I, personally, disapprove of it, and a lot of people in this community disapprove of it, and we’re not being heard,” said Castiello. “I am glad I am being heard and bringing attention to this racist Human Rights Commission that needs to be abolished.”