We all want to feel safe in our community but the hard truth is that racism is embedded in our town governance and police force, and many residents are unsafe and unseen.
On Tuesday, September 22, Arlington’s leaders tried to close the final chapter and “move beyond” Lt. Pedrini’s racist and hate-filled writings. With hollow commitments to continue the “broader discussion around race and equity” in Arlington, town leadership again fails to understand that they cannot employ openly racist police officers and tout our town as safe and inviting for everyone.
Arlington needs real leadership and substantive reform. Ask our Town Manager to commit to these 10 proposals to prevent another case like Pedrini’s, to make Arlington a safe and welcoming town for all, and to promote APD accountability and reform.
A STATEMENT FROM ARLINGTON FIGHTS RACISM
Arlington Fights Racism reiterates our concern that the racist and violent words of Arlington police Lieutenant Rick Pedrini have caused grievous harm towards all those who were targeted in his writings. The inadequate response to those writings, beginning with Arlington’s use of the illegitimate restorative justice process and the lingering questions over how this troubling story can be brought to a reasonable conclusion, continues to cast a pall over the image of the Town as a progressive community that cares for it’s marginalized residents, and has served to embolden white supremacists.
In recent weeks over a dozen Black Lives Matter signs and banners and a mural have been defaced across the Town of Arlington- at homes as well as in front of our schools and churches, some marked with KKK imagery. Additionally, acts of intimidation have been occurring against people participating in the daily vigils along Mass Ave in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Arlington Fights Racism (AFR) stands in solidarity with our Black neighbors, as well as all other individuals targeted by this white supremacist organization including BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, Jewish, and Muslim members of our community. We will never be silent about such harm done to our community members. We now know that a Blue Lives Matter rally, co-organized by the wife of Arlington Police Officer Robert Pedrini and America Backs the Blue is scheduled to take place in Arlington this Thursday, September 10th. Town manager Adam Chapdealine issued a statement stating that “the organizers of this event are affiliated with “Act for America,” an organization that has been designated as a hate group by both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.” A similar rally hosted by this group in Medford recently attracted white supremacists who used hate speech and threatening behavior.
AFR supports the members of our community who are most affected by these hateful acts, and recognizes the pain that is repeatedly being brought to their doorsteps, their spirits, and their sense of belonging. The Town collectively needs to have zero tolerance for racism in our community; otherwise Arlington will likely continue to suffer from high rates of hate crimes like these.
Coverage of the vandalism of BLM signs in Arlington can be found in both national news sources, including the Washington Post, and several local news stations. This is not the first time our town has received broad news coverage for issues of systemic racism. Last year, we were shocked by multiple acts of arson at a local Jewish place of worship. Earlier in the summer Arlington drew national attention for the vandalism of a BLM banner at Arlington High School, which resulted in hundreds protesting with Arlington High’s Black Student Union. The Boston Globe published an article outlining the systemic racism that contributes to persistent racial disparity gaps in our school disciplinary rates; and NPR broadcast a segment about APS entitled, “What it’s Like to Be a Student of Color.” Most widespread however, was the news coverage of Lt Pedrini. Not only was his racist manifesto published in a statewide police journal, but the coverage traveled far via Newsweek. His words can be found across the country on police websites, not as a condemnation, but as a warning for police officers: “If you are going to be loud, be wise.”
Commitments have been made and some steps taken toward addressing our problems with systemic and institutional racism; but until we express a stronger desire to change, Arlington will continue to struggle with diversity and equity issues in the hiring and retaining of teachers and employees of color, and our community will suffer as a result. Until we demonstrate by our actions our willingness to change – that is, by deep policy changes and daily engagement with the issues- we will not attract more residents of color or businesses owned by people of color because people of color will choose more welcoming places to live and work. Unless we change the narrative some members of our community will continue to be afraid to report crimes, be reluctant to run for office or be too intimidated to speak up.
The town must demonstrate anti-racism in action. By keeping Lt. Rick Pedrini on its payroll Arlington ensures that your taxpayer money actively contributes to this hostile town culture. Residents should fully expect that our town will continue to embolden the rise of white supremacy if we do not take a material stance against it. We can’t sit around and complain to each other and hope for a better future. Each and everyone of us must actively do something right now to make that future a reality. Change can only happen when we act. It is not too late for the Town of Arlington to pursue termination of Lt Pedrini. He might very well be reinstated in arbitration, but the Town will have nonetheless sent an overdue message to the APD, to the community, and to white supremacists terrorizing our neighborhoods that racism will not be tolerated in Arlington and that Black Lives do matter to us.
Arlington Fights Racism is also reflecting on how we can better serve Black lives in Arlington. As such, we are pursuing the development of an Accountability Council consisting of community members who identify with a marginalized demographic, prioritizing Black and Brown voices. Please contact us if you are interested at firstname.lastname@example.org.