A number of Everett, Massachusetts residents and members of the group “Our Revolution Everett” filled the city council chambers Monday night urging City Councilor Stephen Simonelli to resign after he allegedly made racist comments on social media.
"He's racist," Jim Lemay said of Simonelli. "He shouldn't say stuff like that on social media."
"I think he should be asked to leave," John Young added.
Simonelli appeared to support someone posting on an Everett Facebook group who was critical of a Haitian woman for her ethnicity, saying, in part, "learn the language" and "be grateful for just being here."
"I condemn these statements in the strongest of terms," said Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria Jr.
"I want to apologize if I offended anyone with my comment on social media," Simonelli, who is unable to speak because of his battle with cancer, said in a statement. "It's not in my character to hurt, harm or upset anyone. I was expressing an opinion on a Facebook post; something I now regret. However, I never said nor would I ever say anything racist, bigoted or hateful."
But that's not sitting well with Everett's immigrant community.
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"I think it's very clear from his comments on where he stands, and I do say that he is racist," said Iliana Panameno, community organizer for La Comunidad Inc.
"We are very angry about those kind of comments, that it is not the first time that it happened," added La Comunidad, Inc. Executive Director Antonio Amaya.
But fellow city councilor Rosa DiFlorio said she knows Simonelli well.
"He's not racist, he's a kind man," said DiFlorio. "I don't agree with the comment, but I don't agree with how they blew this out of proportion and what they're doing. It's not fair to Councilman Simonelli, he is a disabled person that cares about the city."