Healey touts actions, takes questions at UMass

  • Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, right, speaks Monday during a town hall meeting at the University of Massachusetts Student Union. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, right, speaks Monday during a town hall meeting at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Student Union. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey speaks Monday during a town hall meeting at the University of Massachusetts Student Union. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

Thursday, November 16, 2017

AMHERST — Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey mixed highlighting the bread-and-butter activities of her office as well as its successful tussles with the Trump administration, in an appearance Monday at the University of Massachusetts.

Healey noted her office’s work fighting against predatory student and car loan practices, as well as wage theft, highlighting the money her office has returned to constituents.

“If you’ve been the victim of wage theft, you contact our office,” she said.

She also noted her office’s lawsuits against Trump administration actions it had judged to be illegal, such as the executive orders restricting immigration from some Muslim-majority countries that opponents have characterized as travel bans.

“It’s about Massachusetts interests,” she said.

Healey also encouraged those present to get involved in local politics.

“Democracy is local,” she said.

Following Healey’s remarks she took a number of questions from the audience. Some of the issues she addressed were her office’s interpretation of Massachusetts’ 1998 ban on assault weapons, the state drug lab scandal, and how people can best stand up to the Trump administration.

She also said her office had sued the offices of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt about the same number of times.

“Both are terrible,” she said. “On so many fronts.”

Kathleen Hooker-Drummond asked Healey what others could do to address issues of sexual harassment. Hooker-Drummond was part of the sexual harassment case against the Route 9 Diner that Healey’s office took up and successfully prosecuted.

“It is so great to meet you,” said Healey, noting that she doesn’t get to meet everyone whose cases her office takes up.

Healey encouraged people to come forward with issues of sexual harassment, and asked the audience to give Hooker-Drummond a round of applause for doing so.

“Thank you for doing that,” she said.

Healey noted the current national conversation on the subject. She also said she worked as a waitress from high school through law school, and that young people need to be taught how to build healthy relationships.

“We’ve got to start at a young age,” she said.

Daniel Gould, a political science major from Malden, asked how he could protect members of his diverse community from Nazi hate, without using the extrajudicial solution of punching them in the face.

“I have to hold myself back, too,” said Healey, who put forward the alternative of standing in solidarity with the vulnerable members of one’s community.

“Go talk to them,” Healey said. “Offer them support.”

Healey, who is lesbian, also said there were times and places where she could have been victimized as well, and noted her participation in the counter-rally in Boston in the wake of the violence at the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in response to a “free speech” rally organized by white supremacists.

Monday’s event at the Student Union Ballroom was sponsored by the UMass Democrats and billed as a town hall meeting. The crowd featured both students and members of the wider Pioneer Valley community.

Healey is facing re-election next year, and the UMass Democrats offered shirts supporting the attorney general to a number of those who asked her questions.

Asked after the question- and-answer period about the criminal justice reform efforts currently before the Legislature, Healey offered her support.

“I think it’s important,” she said. “I think the time is now.”

She declined to say, however, whether she preferred the House or Senate bill.

“There are good aspects to each.” She said that what was important now was to get the right bill in place as it moves through conference.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.