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Everett city councilor criticized for sharing racist meme

City Councilor Anthony DiPierro has been facing calls to resign after he sent a message containing a racist meme.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe/file

EVERETT — Residents are denouncing City Councilor Anthony DiPierro and calling for him to resign after he apologized last week for having circulated a racist meme online.

The message he traded with others in the city became public last week in a report by the Everett Leader-Herald and led him to write a letter of apology that was published by the Everett Advocate. The message, and two others sent by DiPierro that were obtained by the Globe, make reference to the n-word.

“It breaks my heart to hear from a sitting councilor talking about a derogatory word about Black people,” Guerline Alcy Jabouin, who is Black, said at a council meeting Monday night. “It hurts more to know that the city’s not doing anything about this.”

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Jabouin, who ran unsuccessfully for council in November, called for DiPierro to step down, eliciting sustained applause from dozens of residents who attended the meeting in the Everett High School library.

DiPierro did not respond to the call for his resignation at the meeting. In a statement to the Globe late Tuesday, DiPierro said he recognizes his actions were wrong and that he would undergo diversity training.

“I am sincerely sorry for the hurt that I have caused to members of my community,” he said. “My failure to recognize the implications of these actions and your feelings can only be rectified by acknowledgement, education and engagement.”

Everett resident Janice Lark, who is Black, said during Monday’s council meeting that a city councilor should know better and recalled being called the same slur as a child.

“Councilor, you are not 10,” she said. “You know the impact of using the n-word.”

DiPierro, 27, is a son of Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria’s cousin.

The mayor also responded to the incident by writing an op-ed for the Advocate last week, saying he “stands against discriminatory behavior in all of its forms.”

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“Anyone who uses this word or distributes content that is racially insensitive or promotes any other form of discrimination must be reproached for such behavior,” DeMaria wrote.

The two additional messages from DiPierro obtained by the Globe also include references to the slur, including a cartoon that was sent to a group of people, including DeMaria spokeswoman Deanna Deveney. She said the message was part of a larger group text thread and she did not respond to it directly.

“I do not condone personally nor professionally the use of any racist language,” Deveney added in a statement. “I regret being involved in a group text message and not expressing my disdain for the use of that word between two other individuals. This has reminded me of the importance of speaking out when something isn’t right.”

Cathy Draine, Everett’s new director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, said in an interview Tuesday that the council may have its own means for censuring members, but that it’s her job to establish appropriate policies and procedures across city government to avert discrimination.

“My response to the residents is that they have every right to be upset and expect more of city officials and each other as we continue to learn how to be better as a community as a whole,” Draine said.

In his statement, DiPierro said that he has been working with Draine and the city’s Human Resources department to identify ways to heal as an individual and community. He also said he has spoken with minority, civic, and religious leaders in the community and will meet with them this week.

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“For now, I am ashamed, disappointed and embarrassed, but I am committed to improving,” he said. “I understand the hurt I have brought to my community. I promise, if you give me the chance, I will prove I am a better person.”

Everett, a racially diverse, minority-white city, has long been governed by mostly white male leaders. The city’s first Black female city councilor, Gerly Adrien, took office in 2019 and was often at odds with other councilors, some of whom pressured her to resign rather than attend meetings by Zoom during the pandemic. Adrien said she faced relentless scrutiny as a Black woman in Everett politics and criticism from the mayor for her demeanor during meetings; DeMaria maintained that Adrien was being rude and unprofessional.

In January, Everett’s superintendent of schools, Priya Tahiliani, filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination alleging that the mayor has discriminated and retaliated against her because she is a woman of color who has hired others like herself to work in the district’s administration. Tahiliani also pointed to the mayor’s critiques of her expressions and demeanor during meetings.

Adrien is no longer on the council, having run unsuccessfully for mayor in November, and the council has no Black members. The current board consists of eight white councilors, one Latina, and two Asian Americans.

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