North Adams pledges to defend civil rights

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NORTH ADAMS — The city now declares itself safe and inclusive.

After weeks of debate, public hearings and revisions to an original proposal, the City Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday saying it will not tolerate "hate crimes and expressions of hate."

"[We] advocate for the civil liberties and human rights of every resident of and visitor to North Adams regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual and gender identity, national origin, citizenship or of any perceived or actual identity," the resolution states.

Introduced in December by Council President Benjamin Lamb and Councilor Nancy Bullett, the nonbinding proposal was generally well received by residents who attended council and community development committee meetings.

"It's been valuable and challenging and we're all the better for it, even if it uncovered some things that can be hard," said Councilor Kate Merrigan.

After councilor and public input, the original resolution was stripped down to remove references considered irrelevant to North Adams, such as one to New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio.

As it passed through council and committee, the resolution also lost most of its references to individual groups subject to discrimination. Councilors instead opted for a draft viewed as more all-encompassing.

BRIEF EDIT

The council made a brief edit Tuesday to remove references to Islamophobia and anti-Semitism and to replace them with a clause that states the city will refuse to tolerate "those that discriminate against people on the basis of religious belief and practice."

"It's cut and dry, plain and simple: any religion," said Councilor Robert Moulton Jr.

Moulton said the references to Islamophobia and anti-Semitism weren't necessary because they were encompassed in an earlier paragraph that states every person has the right to "free exercise of any religion."

"You're talking about specific religious groups. If you're going to do that, why not have Christians? They're the most persecuted religious group in the country," Moulton said.

Merrigan and Councilor Eric Buddington supported citing Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

"These are groups ... who have less power, whereas I think Christians ... have a lot of social and political power in the U.S.," Merrigan said.

Councilor Joshua Moran agreed with removing references to specific religions, in an effort to ensure the resolution remains relevant.

"If this is going to be posted in our public schools, it could be there 50 years from now," Moran said.

Councilor Keith Bona echoed Moran's sentiment.

"Those are probably more relevant currently, [but] we don't know in 20 or 40 years from now — it might be a different group," Bona said.

Copies of the resolution will be forwarded to a variety of state and federal leaders.

Reach staff writer Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376 or @EagleAdamShanks.


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