Amherst Town Council denounces anti-Asian bigotry

Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 07, 2020

AMHERST — Anti-Asian rhetoric, including references made by President Donald Trump about the origins of COVID-19, and people of Asian descent facing harassment, assaults and scapegoating during the pandemic, are being called out by the Amherst Town Council.

The council unanimously adopted a resolution June 30 denouncing xenophobia and bigotry against Asians and Asian-Americans, adopting a resolution that “calls on all local public officials to condemn and denounce any and all anti-Asian sentiment in any form in and around the town of Amherst.”

“The Amherst Town Council recognizes that the health, safety, and dignity of all residents, no matter their race, ethnicity, or national origin, must be of utmost priority,” the proclamation states.

Though the topic needs to be addressed nationally, the proclamation notes, there are “a number of Asian and Asian-American members of our community, including students and staff at area universities and colleges, who have reported incidents of racial harassment and indicated that they feel less safe and more vulnerable to discrimination and violence with the increase in hate crimes and harassment against people of Asian descent.”

The resolution was brought forward by Tracy Zafian and Franklin Odo and is similar to one adopted by the Northampton City Council this spring.

“We really see this as a first step in terms of affirming this, and the next step would be conversations and actions to implement it and to actually make people feel safer,” Zafian said. 

The resolution also references the establishment of a Human Rights Commission by Town Meeting in 1999 and a human rights policy that states “no person shall be denied any rights guaranteed pursuant to local, state, and/or federal law on the basis of race, color, ethnic or national origin” and the 2017 joint statement by Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman, Police Chief Scott Livingstone and School Superintendent Michael Morris that Amherst is a welcoming community.

The resolution will be sent to Trump, U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, Gov. Charlie Baker, state Sen. Jo Comerford and state Rep. Mindy Domb, and to U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris, Tammy Duckworth and Mazie Hirono, along with U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, who have introduced similar resolutions in Congress.