NORTH ADAMS — The reason for a vigil this Saturday got its own section, “WHY,” in the release organizer Rinaldo Del Gallo III sent this week: “To celebrate the life of a Berkshire native who made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting us.”
But other possible motives are complicating the picture — and may produce a counter-protest this weekend in North Adams.
In calling a public vigil to honor the late William “Billy” Evans, the U.S. Capitol Police officer killed by an intruder while on duty Friday, Del Gallo said the gathering would also “protest against all race based hate crimes, regardless of the race of the perpetrator or race of the victim.”
It’s the second part of that quotation, along with Del Gallo’s recent legal work and the creation of a new group, Citizens Affirming All Lives Matter, that are raising questions about the nature of the vigil.
Jonathan Stinson, a spokesman for the Northern Berkshire Intersectional Partnership, said representatives of that group may attend the 1 p.m. event outside City Hall to provide another point of view.
“There is a lot of coded language, including the name,” Stinson said, referring to the “all lives matter” phrase in the sponsoring group. Stinson said he and others view such phrasing as an affront to the group Black Lives Matter “in order to belittle or silence their voices.”
Others say they are repelled by content on Del Gallo’s Facebook page, which they say appears to advance white supremacist views, and question his work as a lawyer for a defendant associated with the group that sponsored a “Straight Pride” event in Boston in 2019.
Del Gallo, a Pittsfield attorney, denies that Saturday’s event honoring Evans has a political subtext. “It’s not an anti-Black Lives Matter event. Not in any remote way. We’re trying to be ma, pa and apple pie.” However, he paused in an interview Wednesday when asked what he thinks of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I’m trying to think of whether to answer that. I definitely have extended views. I’m not sure I want this to be part of a story about a fallen Capitol police officer,” he said.
Then he continued.
“Undeniably, people who have been subjected to police violence in the African-American community who should not have been … to that extent I would support Black Lives Matter. The problem is that, unfortunately, there have been elements that have co-opted that wholesome message,” Del Gallo said. “I don’t want this to be about Black Lives Matter. I’m not having this event to criticize Black Lives Matter.”
As for the use of the phrase “all lives matter” in his sponsoring organization’s name, Del Gallo said he is open to reconsidering the message it sends. “We’re not adverse to input about the messaging,” he said. “Maybe we could hone our message. I’m not inclined to.”
Del Gallo calls himself a “Bernie Sanders progressive” and notes that he has championed environmental and social justice causes in the Berkshires, including the drafting of an ordinance to outlaw public facilities discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Why then, Del Gallo was asked in the interview, would he use the wording “all lives matter,” given that it is widely recognized as a denunciation of Black Lives Matter?
“I know that there are some people who are offended by any message [such as] ‘Blue Lives Matter.’ I know that. I don’t think that’s a reasonable controversy. There are some whack jobs out there who are offended by everything.”
Del Gallo was asked whether it is fair to view the phrase “all lives matter” as a political statement.
“The quick answer is no,” he said. “The longer answer is not only no, but that it is an extreme statement. … We’re not trying to have a controversial event. We’re not trying to upset anybody. We’re not trying to do something that’s divisive or shocking. We were planning to have a non-political event, a non-partisan event.”
Lawyering and commenting
Del Gallo served in January as a legal spokesman for Mark Sahady, a Malden man who was charged in connection with the Jan. 6 uprising at the U.S. Capitol.
Del Gallo said Wednesday he sees no conflict between his representation of Sahady and a vigil for an officer whose department defended the Capitol when it was mobbed by insurrectionists that day.
“What’s the relevance?” he asked, when questioned about representing Sahady, who is associated with the groups Resist Marxism and Super Happy Fun America, which hosted the “Straight Pride” rally. “It doesn’t seem like a conflict to me. There’s people out there that take offense at everything.”
Del Gallo says that as a First Amendment attorney, he has been invited to speak to that latter group about free speech and doesn’t necessarily agree with its members’ politics.
“Lawyers represent people all the time. This is an individual that I formerly represented, who, incidentally, stiffed me on the bill,” he said of Sahady.
On Facebook, Del Gallo hosts a regular debate about political issues in which he poses provocative questions, including this one from early February: “Okay — I’m opened minded. What SPECIFIC ‘terrorist acts’ have the Proud Boys done?”
In replies peppered through a long thread on the platform, Del Gallo insisted that people provide examples, implying that they had not — as in this reply to a commenter named Mary, who had cited marchers in Charlottesville, Virginia, who chanted “Jews will not replace us.”
“I never heard that was the Proud Boys,” Del Gallo replied. “And you are cutting it close calling that a ‘terrorist act.’ Maybe it cuts the line, but barely. [It’s] not a bombing, a hijacked plane, or some other over[t] act of violence to accomplish a political result, which is how terrorism is defined.”
In another message that month, Del Gallo wasn’t seeking feedback when he took aim at a term that refers to consciousness about racial injustice and posted: “Woke are wrecking [the] Superbowl. When the stats show you are far more often the perpetrator than the victim, stop the sanctimony.”
In other posts, Del Gallo has noted incidents of violence against white people, commenting this year that “apparently, hate crimes again[st] whites don’t matter.”
In Wednesday’s interview, Del Gallo was asked whether he believes white people are under attack in any way in the U.S.
“I do not think any one race has a monopoly on being perpetrators,” he said. “And I don’t think any one race has a monopoly on being victims.”
In his news release about Saturday’s vigil, Del Gallo wrote that “Officer Evans’ death is a result of a hate crime targeting Officer Evans’ race and the fact that he was a police officer.”
Del Gallo said that is based on material that linked the man responsible, Noah R. Green, with the group Nation of Islam. Green, 25, was shot and killed by police after ramming a vehicle against a barrier, killing Evans.
“It was a senseless killing of a police officer at a time and era when people are hostile to the police and have criticized statements that ‘Blue Lives Matter,’” he said. Del Gallo acknowledged that Green likely suffered from mental health issues, but added, “That also doesn’t mean he wasn’t a racist.”