Some Belmont residents called for the town to hire a diversity director and to provide funding for local antiracist organizations during a Wednesday night Select Board meeting to discuss the killing last week of a Black and Latino man in the town, allegedly by a white man who used a racial slur.
Town officials heard from Black, Hispanic, and Asian residents about their firsthand experiences with racism during the online meeting to discuss the death of Henry O. Tapia, 34, in an alleged road rage incident involving Dean Kapsalis, 54,. Kapsalis, who allegedly ran over Tapia with his pickup truck on Upland Road last has been charged with murder and other offenses. He was ordered held without bail following court appearances last week.
“I have three children, and they’ve all experienced some form of racism within the community,” said Kim Haley-Jackson, a member of the Belmont Human Rights Commission. When she moved to town 10 years ago and registered her eldest daughter for school, she said, administrators assumed the child was a METCO student rather than a Belmont resident because she is Black.
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac reviewed the facts of the case during the two-hour Zoom meeting . Ryan said additional charges could be filed in the case, which is still under investigation.
Hundreds turned out last week to mourn Tapia, a father of three, and to condemn hate speech during a candlelight vigil last Thursday.
Several speakers during the select board’s meeting called for Belmont to live up to the slogan seen on signs around town: “Hate has no home here.”
Evelyn Gomez, a Belmont School Committee member, was one of a handful of residents who called for the town to establish a position to oversee hiring and other matters with an eye on racial equity.
“As a private citizen, I want to support the funding of a diversity director for the town of Belmont. … Can the Select Board please commit to including this position in this year’s override budget?” she asked.
Select Board Chairman Roy Epstein told her that “the town actually has had a de facto hiring freeze for years. … I don’t say it’s a bad idea, but I just cannot committee to putting it in the budget.”
Epstein said the Select Board would discuss the suggestion further at upcoming meetings.
Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.