Haitian community rallies in support of Walsh

Walsh and supporters gathered in Mattapan Square. Maddie Kilgannon photo

Mayor Martin Walsh kicked off the last weekend before Tuesday’s preliminary election at a rally with the Haitian community in Mattapan.

Roughly 100 people attended Saturday morning’s rally on Blue Hill Avenue for Walsh’s reelection, which was organized by former State Rep. Marie St. Fleur and state Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry. Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins was also in attendance, as was Attorney General Maura Healey, who endorsed Walsh in his reelection campaign. 

“We need to get this gentleman back in office to let him continue the good work that he’s been doing,” St. Fleur told the crowd.

“[Walsh] is the child of immigrants, his parents came from Ireland. So he understands what we go through as immigrants. He has stood with the Haitian communities,” Forry said.

Both Forry and St.Fleur addressed the crowd primarily in Haitian Creole. Multiple drivers honked the horns of their vehicles as they drove by the sea of red Walsh signs— at times drowning out the speakers.

Walsh’s vocal and swift opposition to President Donald Trump’s administration was highlighted by all the speakers.

“When that travel ban came down, Marty was there. When they tried to take away temporary status from Haitians, Marty was there. When they wanted to threaten our sanctuary cities, Marty said ‘I’m opening up City Hall,” Healey said at the rally to a roar of applause. 

“And just a few weeks ago we filed a lawsuit challenging the President’s actions on DACA, Marty was right there. That’s why what we’re doing…right here from this street corner, matters. It goes beyond this neighborhood, it goes beyond this city, and it goes beyond this state,” Healey said.

Walsh, too, hammered the dissonance between national priories and the values expressed by many leaders of the Commonwealth.

“We’re getting attacked from Washington…we’re getting attacked from our own country,” Walsh said, echoing Healey’s comments.

“We need to make sure that people who live in this neighborhood can afford to buy a home in this neighborhood and be part of this neighborhood, and not worry that someone is going to knock on their from door and tear their family apart because they were born in another country. We’re not going to let that happen here in Boston,” Walsh said.

Right as Walsh was reaching the height of his stump speech, someone in the crowd called out a request for a Haitian community center.

“Let me work on that,” Walsh said, without missing a beat.

“Today is about reminding people about Tuesday, letting people know that it’s important to go out and vote. If you come across somebody, remind them to vote. Even if they’re not voting for me, make them vote because that’s the democratic process, and that’s what we fight for in this country,” Walsh said.

“But try and convince them to vote for me,” he added.

Healey threw her support behind Walsh at the event, citing his local leadership in a time of national turmoil. She said after the rally that the enthusiasm was encouraging

“We need more people out there voting and paying attention to elections. These things matter, and so to me it’s a great thing to see so much enthusiasm and so much energy,” she said.

The local Haitian community, Walsh noted, was a strong backer during his 2013 campaign. He is focused now on how to bolster programs in Boston for them, he said.

“When I think about the Haitian community, I think about what we can do locally, but also globally,” Walsh said, as supporters grabbed clipboards and campaign literature as they headed out in small groups to knock on doors.

“For example, locally, the Mattahunt we started off this year [a] Haitian immersion program, really focused on the Haitian community. We have a lot of young Haitian kids here, so it’s really no different than helping other communities but the sidenotes are the immigration stuff.”

None of Walsh’s three opponents — City Councillor Tito Jackson, Robert Cappucci, and Jospeh Wiley — were mentioned or alluded to during the rally. The speakers focused instead on the mayor’s plans for the city and touted his record of advocacy on behalf of the immigrant community.

“We’re running a campaign. We’re taking this serious,” Walsh said. “You just don’t know in politics what’s going to happen, and you don’t take anything for granted.”

Polls open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday and close at 8 p.m. Information on polling locations can be found on the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts website.

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