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Allies rally behind Everett city councilor

A rally was held outside Everett City Hall Monday night to support City Councilor Gerly Adrien, pictured speaking to the crowd.
A rally was held outside Everett City Hall Monday night to support City Councilor Gerly Adrien, pictured speaking to the crowd.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

EVERETT — After being chided for attending City Council meetings remotely and pressured by her colleagues to resign, Everett’s only Black councilor on Monday night got an outpouring of support from allies — and, later, a mea culpa of sorts from her fellow councilors.

About 100 people — including US Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, Boston City Council President Kim Janey, former Boston city councilor Tito Jackson, and Chelsea City Councilor Damali Vidot — rallied outside Everett City Hall beside Gerly Adrien, the first Black female councilor in the city’s history.

“The voters get to determine who gets in office,” Janey said. “Those are the only people that have a say in this matter. We will stand with Gerly, and we will stand against racism.”

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Kennedy declared: “We gather tonight in support of a history-maker. . . . Your fight — our fight — is not yet done.”

The diverse crowd, all wearing masks, lined the sidewalk, some holding signs and occasionally chanting “Black Lives Matter." Everett’s entrenched local leadership, one speaker suggested, might have to get used to this.

“If you take a look at what’s out here tonight, this is the coalition that got Gerly elected. This is what America looks like,” said Horace Small, executive director of the Union of Minority Neighborhoods. “And oh, by the way, Everett, this is what your town looks like. We ain’t going back. Gerly is not going back.”

Adrien, 31, is three decades younger than some of her colleagues and has ruffled feathers on the council by challenging traditions and asking pointed questions. Council President Rosa DiFlorio has called her “a problem” and said she has “no respect for seniors or white people.”

Adrien has been participating in council meetings virtually due to concerns about exposing a vulnerable family member to the coronavirus. But during a meeting two weeks ago, councilors descended on her with criticism after being unable to hear her remote feed. Several told her she should show up in person, or resign.

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It turned out that the city’s amplifier was causing the sound problem. And in a bizarre twist of events, video from the tumultuous council meeting disappeared by morning. Everett police, State Police, and the Middlesex district attorney’s office are investigating.

Adrien, who thanked the crowd for their support on Monday night, reasserted that she has no intention of stepping down.

“I said that was ridiculous, and that I wanted to do this work ever since I was 10 years old,” Adrien said Monday night. “The work needs to be continued. I’m not going to stop. I’m not going anywhere."

Allie Rojas, a local organizer, pointed to last week’s presidential election, the historic choice of a Black woman as vice president, and Adrien’s significance as the first Black woman on the council.

“This weekend, we said no to white supremacy on a national level, and we’re going to continue to say no to white supremacy in our backyard,” Rojas said.

Monica Cannon-Grant, a Boston organizer and founder of Violence in Boston Inc., cited the power of Black women’s votes and organizing.

“Black women are leading in this country,” she said. “Black women are the reason Joe Biden is in office. . . . We are the first ones to come to save you. We will be the first ones out here protesting on behalf of Gerly.”

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An organizer who has marshaled thousands to rallies and parades in recent years, Cannon-Grant added: “This is a small crowd compared to what I can bring to the city of Everett if it does not stop.”

At the council meeting that followed the rally — held on Zoom, because the amplifier still had not been fixed, according to a city spokeswoman — the council president offered a statement about the prior rancorous meeting, which had to be abruptly adjourned.

“Frustrations grew throughout the meeting over the antiquated technology infrastructure that has thrown multiple obstacles in the way of our ability to provide remote access to our meetings during the pandemic,” DiFlorio said.

“We allowed those frustrations to get the better of us, and took them out on one of our colleagues,” she said.

She said that no councilor should be “made to feel that they are derelict in their duties” by choosing to participate remotely.

And she said that the council would have to upgrade its technology to conduct business during the pandemic — and “begin anew to work together to serve the people of Everett.”


This story has been updated to correct the title of Chelsea City Councilor Damali Vidot.





Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Stephanie.Ebbert@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert.