Baker's Office Blitzed By Calls For Mass. To Declare Itself A Safe Haven

November 15, 2016

Gov. Charlie Baker's offices have been inundated with calls from Massachusetts citizens asking the governor to openly declare the state a safe haven from hate.

A growing movement on social media is urging Bay Staters to call into the governor's constituent services offices in Boston and Springfield to ask Baker to line up with the governors of California and New York in specifically stating that Massachusetts will do everything it can to prevent discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity or other factors.

Karina Meiri, a Tufts University professor who helped organize the call-in effort, told WGBH News she and fellow organizers find it worrying that Baker has not come out with a formal statement on offering refuge to those who feel targeted in the aftermath of President-elect Donald Trump's win last week.

"We want Gov. Baker to make the same kind of formal statement on behalf of Massachusetts and we find it very surprising and kind of worrying that he hasn't come out with a formal statement yet," 

Meiri said both Baker's Boston and Springfield offices reported receiving a total of 6,000 calls Monday. A third office in Washington, D.C. is not set up to field large volumes of constituent calls and only reported 13, according to Mieri. Baker's office confirmed that they are receiving calls, but would not say how many.

Former constituent services staffers for Gov. Deval Patrick's administration told WGBH News the most calls received during one day throughout Patrick's second term was only 1,000.

A spokeswoman for Baker issued a statement Tuesday morning saying that Baker believes the country "must unify and look forward after this divisive election."

"The Baker-Polito Administration rejects all forms of racism and discrimination and is committed to protecting the rights of all individuals, regardless of background, to ensure Massachusetts remains a welcoming place to live, work and raise a family,” said Lizzy Guyton, Baker's communications director.

Meiri said the statement sounded satisfactory, but Baker could do more.

"We'd like Gov. Baker to say it and we'd like Gov. Baker to publicize it. But the sentiment sounds great," Meiri said.

"We all know he didn't vote but that doesn't mean he can't step up to the plate. It took 3 minutes of my time. There are 13,417 of us on here. They will hear us. They have no choice," blogger Robyn Epstein Parets wrote on the Pro-Hillary Clinton Facebook group "Pantsuit Nation - Boston."

Cuomo wrote in a Facebook post Saturday:

"So let me be absolutely clear: If anyone feels that they are under attack, I want them to know that the state of New York – the state that has the Statue of Liberty in its harbor – is their refuge."

More importantly, perhaps is New York City's status as "sanctuary city," a more formal designation than the Cuomo's state-wide sentiment. Baker is on record as opposing a bill that would provide legal protections to people in the country illegally, saying he prefers to leave individual cities and towns to decide for themselves.

Attorney General Maura Healey on Monday announced a new hotline for Massachusetts residents to call to report acts of harassment based on discrimination or bias. 

“There are reports from around the country following the election that people have been targeted and subjected to conduct that imperils safety and civil rights," Healey wrote in a  statement announcing the hotline.

Staff from Healey's office will track reports of harassment and hate crimes like bias-motivated assault, battery and property damage, and refer some incident to the proper local authorities.

Healey recommends people call 1-800-994-3228 or fill out an online civil rights complaint form.


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