Tensions on the Boston City Council continued to affect the body’s business on Thursday, as advocates at a redistricting hearing called for Councilor Ricardo Arroyo to be reinstated as chair of the committee in charge of the once-in-a-decade mapmaking process.
During a City Hall hearing focused on potential changes to the map of City Council districts, leaders from a number of advocacy organizations, including MassVOTE, the Boston branch of the NAACP, New England United 4 Justice, the Massachusetts Voter Table, and the New Democracy Coalition, criticized a decision by Council President Ed Flynn to strip Arroyo of his leadership posts.
Mimi Ramos, executive director of the social change organization New England United 4 Justice, called Flynn’s decision an “unacceptable lack of leadership from our city.”
“This behavior is not tolerated and we support Councilor Arroyo being reinstated as chair,” she said.
Flynn stripped Arroyo of his vice presidency of the council and the chairmanships of two committees after years-old sexual assault allegations against Arroyo surfaced last month in the closing weeks of his campaign for Suffolk district attorney.
Arroyo has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, and he was not charged with a crime. He lost the Sept. 6 Democratic primary for Suffolk DA to Kevin Hayden.
The once-in-a-decade process of redistricting is inescapably political, requiring elected officials to shuffle the boundaries of their own districts to roughly equalize the population in each. But this year’s process has been particularly tense in the wake of the allegations against Arroyo, which have laid bare deep pain and fissures on the council, some along racial lines.
Some speakers said the change in leadership risks representation for Boston’s communities of color. Arroyo’s replacement is Councilor Liz Breadon, an immigrant from Northern Ireland.
“I raise this issue because the voting rights of protected electoral classes are at stake,” said Kevin Peterson, who heads the New Democracy Coalition. Peterson said he wondered whether Arroyo’s removal will “jeopardize a just redistricting process on behalf of Black people in Boston.”
Asked about the criticism, Flynn praised Breadon’s work on the committee and did not say whether he intended to reinstate Arroyo.
Breadon and Vice Chairman Brian Worrell have “shown exceptional leadership as we face a tight timeline in approving new district maps,” Flynn said in a statement. “Let’s continue to work together.”
Six of Arroyo’s fellow councilors have said they support his reinstatement.
“Removing me from my chairmanships was inappropriate and unjust. There were never grounds to do so,” Arroyo said in a statement Thursday. “Reinstatement is the just and the appropriate remedy and I hope Councilor Flynn does so.”
Speakers also addressed how they would like to see the council districts shift in response to population changes. Arroyo and Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson have proposed their own version of the map.
Many residents, including some who spoke through interpreters, called on the council to keep together communities with shared interests. Several emphasized the importance of keeping Chinese residents of the South End in the same council district as Chinatown, and of protecting the political power of Black communities.
A number of speakers, including some city councilors, also called on Breadon to hold additional redistricting hearings outside City Hall, and to make the process more transparent. Some of the council’s meetings on the subject, while open to the public, were held in City Hall and not livestreamed.
Danny McDonald of the Globe staff contributed to this report.