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Campbell says Boston must do more on racial justice, response to COVID-19

Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell
Boston City Councilor Andrea CampbellPat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Amid a global health crisis and local calls for racial justice, Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell said Sunday in a televised interview that city leaders must do more to address systemic racism and invest more resources into Boston’s poorer neighborhoods.

Campbell has criticized Mayor Martin J. Walsh for not doing enough to address racial issues, including his move to create an equity and inclusion Cabinet-level office. And while she supports efforts like the creation of a new city racial equity fund, officials must go further.

“I think the fund is a good idea, but leadership has to start with the city in terms of setting the plan, the goal, with respect to closing the gaps,” Campbell said in an interview Sunday morning with WCVB-TV’s “On The Record.” “And we have to do more with that.”

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Campbell, a former council president who represents Mattapan, Dorchester, and parts of Roslindale and Jamaica Plain, said officials have to help communities of color disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus as the state moves ahead with plans to reopen the economy amid a pandemic.

She said people in communities of color are dying and getting infected at higher rates. They feel excluded in discussions on responses to the coronavirus, including plans for reopening the state’s economy.

According to the Boston Public Health Commission, Black and African-American residents make up 37 percent of the city’s 13,399 cases as of June 25. And of Boston’s 705 deaths due to the virus, more than one-third, or 240 deaths, involved Black and African-American residents.

About one-quarter of the city’s residents are Black and African American, according to the US Census.

“People are saying, ‘Let’s reopen,’ while folks in certain communities are still dying and being infected,” Campbell said.

Campbell was among five councilors who voted against Walsh’s $3.61 billion operating budget for fiscal 2021, which she has said wasn’t enough to fight economic and racial inequalities, or help communities of color.

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Campbell, who has called on Walsh for greater transparency as he negotiates contracts with city police unions amid calls for reform, said she is seeking police data on traffic stops, stop and frisk encounters, as well as figures on budget and diversity.

She said there is support among councilors for reform, including the creation of a civilian review board for police.

Campbell is also opposed to Governor Charlie Baker’s proposal to offer bonuses to officers as part of a proposed police accountability bill.

Campbell said she is pushing for training to address implicit bias, anti-racism, and racial equity training for police and other government employees.

“I do not think you should have to pay people to go through that training,” Campbell said in the interview, noting the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. “Those lives were taken because people devalued the life of Black people.”

Campbell also repeated her criticism for Police Commissioner William Gross, who met earlier this month with US Attorney General William Barr.

On Twitter, she made headlines with her critique of the meeting: “Defund whatever the hell this is.”

Gross is the first Black man to serve as commissioner, and Campbell — who made history herself as the first Black woman to become council president — said she did not want to be at odds with him in public.

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But she said many groups in Boston pushing for law enforcement changes have sought to meet with Gross, and she said it was disappointing to see the city’s commissioner had chosen to meet with Barr.

“There is a long list of folks that want to meet with our police commissioner who have actual ideas, good ideas, that will bring us together as a city and move forward meaningful reforms in terms of policing,” Campbell said.



John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.