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Federal probe into racism, civil rights in Everett is closed with no finding

Leaves residents frustrated, motivated to bring about change

Liz Neisloss / GBH
Federal probe into racism, civil rights in Everett is closed with no finding
Everett High School students rally against racism in city government. PHOTO: LIZ NEISLOSS/GBH NEWS

In Everett, some residents considered the federal probe into racism and possible civil rights violations in city government to be a validation of their experiences in the city. Now, 14 months after it began, the investigation has been closed with no findings and no public comment from federal officials.

Residents like Samantha Lambert are disappointed but said the closure of this investigation “does not invalidate” people’s experiences of racism.

Lambert, a current Everett School Committee member who is running for re-election, said the inquiry didn’t prompt the mayor to reach out to people impacted by racism. But she said the inquiry’s closure was fresh motivation to engage more community members in civic issues.

“Today, we go back to work and continue building the foundation that will lift our next generation of leaders,” said Lambert.

The brief letter to the city of Everett from officials with the Department of Justice and U.S. attorney’s office of Massachusetts, obtained by GBH News, offered no details on why the “preliminary inquiry” was closed. It had been launched in June of last year by then-U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins after a string of racist incidents involving city officials. However, the letter said the closing of the inquiry “has no impact on any claims” that may have already been filed or that might be filed in the future.

Former City Councilor Gerly Adrien said she was interviewed by Justice Department officials early in their work.

As the first city councilor of color in Everett, Adrien had accused Mayor Carlo DeMaria of racism and said she was bullied on the council. She said she told officials about favoritism in hiring for city posts and in the awarding of city contracts. Now, she says changes in policy will have to come through elections.

“I think this just shows the importance of electing good people in office. So I would just remind people that [in] every election to go out and vote,” Adrien said.

Guerline Alcy, a Black candidate for city council, is still waiting for Everett police to identify two individuals shown in surveillance footage leaving a racist effigy underneath one of her campaign signs just over a week ago. She said no one should think the closing of the inquiry means there’s no racism in Everett.

“I’m living it,” said Alcy, “With all the complaints about racism in Everett, what will this teach kids? It’s a slap in the face.”

On August 10, Mayor DeMaria said the city had fully cooperated with the inquiry and he wasn’t surprised that it was brought to a close with no findings. He also said the city would continue the work it had already been doing before the inquiry began to make city government “accessible, respectful and culturally sensitive.”

The upcoming primary election in Everett has a historic number of people of color running for office.

Farah Costa, a Black Everett resident running for school committee, said representation in Everett matters “now more than ever.”

“The range of voices vying for office promises to bring about positive and transformative change for the entire community.”

Liz Neisloss is a reporter for GBH’s “Greater Boston.”