An Everett City Council candidate targeted with an effigy of a burned human head left next to her campaign sign last month is demanding justice and a broad, public condemnation of racist behavior from city leaders.
Guerline Alcy, who is Haitian American and an Everett resident for nearly three decades, said she considers the incident a threat — but she is refusing to end her run for an at-large council post.
“I am not scared. I am going to continue to fight for [residents],” Alcy said. “This is all intimidation. It’s unfortunate that someone thinks that it’s OK to do that. But they are not scaring me.”
The incident, which Alcy said she reported to Everett police July 17, also occurred just a few weeks before the US attorney’s office for Massachusetts told city leaders it was ending a civil rights probe into Everett’s local government launched by former US attorney Rachael Rollins without issuing any federal charges.
Mayor Carlo DeMaria and other white elected officials have faced repeated complaints of racist and sexist behavior in Everett — one of the most diverse cities in the state — and Alcy and other community members are concerned those problems will only get worse.
“If this isn’t racist, if this isn’t retaliation, and discrimination, then what is?” Paula Sterite, a longtime city resident, said of the effigy. “It seems that Everett is a place where bad behavior is just acceptable.”
Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of Boston-based Lawyers for Civil Rights, pointed to Everett’s increasingly diverse demographics, and said it is concerning that harassment and intimidation tactics could escalate against immigrants and people of color.
“Public threats and intimidation of a Haitian American woman who is politically active is designed to silence and suppress, not only her voice, but the voice of the community she comes from,” Espinoza-Madrigal said.
Alcy said when she learned about the disturbing object, she initially thought someone had just defaced one of her campaign signs. But once she received a photo of it, she said the situation was far worse.
The effigy appeared to be a mannequin’s head, mounted to a stick, and stuck through the links of a chain fence, next to one of her campaign signs.
The head’s eyes were carved out, the nose cut off. Its mouth was cut open and stuffed with rags. The top of the head appeared to be burned. A misogynistic slur for a woman was scrawled across the forehead.
The incident occurred in broad daylight on Broadway, one of the city’s main thoroughfares, and just a short distance from Everett City Hall, according to Alcy.
Alcy, 48, who has three young children and ran an unsuccessful campaign for state representative last year, worked for the city for about a decade before leaving in 2021.
“It’s just mind boggling for me that, in 2023, someone thinks that it’s OK to do that,” Alcy said. “I honestly think that someone is super sick in the head.”
In Everett, a city of about 50,000, more than 30 percent of residents are Hispanic or Latino, nearly one-fifth are multiracial, and it includes large communities of Black and Asian residents.
But most of the city’s leaders are white. And officials have faced allegations of racist and sexist behavior in recent years.
More than a year ago, Rollins announced the inquiry into Everett’s government after city officials, including then-City Councilor Anthony DiPierro, made racially insensitive remarks. DiPierro stepped down last year in wake of the controversy.
But last week, federal prosecutors told lawyers for DeMaria and the city that the probe into possible civil rights violations had been closed, and no federal charges will be brought.
DiPierro, a candidate for the City Council’s Ward 3 in this year’s election, did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent through his campaign Facebook page.
Since she learned of the effigy, Alcy has stopped campaigning late at night, avoids large crowds, and has taken steps to protect her family.
Police are investigating. But Alcy expressed frustration that the police have not notified her of any update in the case.
“It’s the same reply: ‘We’re working on it,’ " she said. “It’s almost [been] a month.”
Everett police Chief Steven A. Mazzie said in a brief email that officers have been in contact with Alcy, and there is an open and active investigation.
DeMaria, in a statement released by a spokesperson, declined to comment.
“Mayor DeMaria does not comment on open and active investigations in the normal and ordinary course of business,” said Erin C. Deveney, DeMaria’s chief of staff.
Community members were angered by the effigy targeting Alcy.
“I find it distressing that a candidate can’t run for office without being threatened,” said Robin Babcock, a candidate for the city’s School Committee.
The Rev. Mimi Daniel of the North Shore Evangelical Missionary Church, said“Everyone [deserves] a chance to be in government if they choose to.”
Alcy said she is encouraging residents to vote in this year’s election if they want to help make change in Everett. Her message to voters: “Have courage,” she said.
“It’s a clear message of intimidation,” Alcy said of the effigy. “Someone needs to do something to let people know that this is not okay.”
John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.