This morning, on my way to meet my running group at the Arlington High School track, I was stunned and disgusted to see a hateful anti-gay slur spray painted on the parking lot pavement next to my car. A few steps away, a similar sentiment was scrawled on the building itself along with a swastika on a nearby trash barrel. I took photos of the graffiti and notified the Arlington Police Department, who were on the scene before I even finished one lap on the track, and the Rainbow Commission, the Department of Health and Human Services, DPW, the Board of Selectmen, the Superintendent, Principal Janger, the Town Manager and the Diversity Task Group were already notified and starting to take action before I had even finished my breakfast.
This, my fellow Town Meeting Members, is how we do things in Arlington. We should be very proud of this immediate response and the seriousness with which every group treated this incident.
Unfortunately, as I learned later this morning, these hate messages outside the school were not the only damage done. There was extensive vandalism throughout the high school from what we now know is 11 individuals, many of whom were caught on exterior surveillance cameras. As the co-chair of the Arlington Human Rights Commission, I have now been privy to hear about too many hate-inspired incidents in Arlington. In the year and a half I have been on the Commission, we have seen the number of these incidents rise, whether it be swastikas, racist, ethnic, anti-gay, hateful graffiti on the bike path, on private property and in school bathrooms. As we talked about last week, words and language matter and these hateful words, scrolled in our public spaces, in the spaces our educators, students, school building workers, and visitors frequent are unacceptable, offensive and frankly, just disgusting.
So tonight, here at Town Meeting, on behalf of the Arlington Human Rights Commission, I would like to state that here in Arlington, we are constantly striving and fighting to be an inclusive, welcoming and equitable community. Incidents and human rights violations like this and others we have responded to have absolutely and unequivocally no place in Arlington. This is not who we are.