Singh, who is a Sikh, said he shared that story to show that intolerance can happen anywhere and many Americans have felt unsafe in the days since the Nov. 8 presidential election won by Republican Donald Trump, who defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton following a campaign marked by division and heated rhetoric.
“The movement against such hate transcends political and personal identities,” Singh said during a rally attended by several of the state’s top political figures. “We must stand up against it collectively, no matter where or when it occurs.”
The rally was held by the Anti-Defamation League and a coalition of 30 local groups in response to what the organizers described as “an alarming number of hate and bias fueled incidents across the country and in Massachusetts.”
Elected officials who spoke at the event called on ralliers to protect their neighbors, oppose hatred and remain involved in the political process, while pledging that state government would work to protect Massachusetts residents.
Attorney General Maura Healey said a hotline her office established for residents to report bias-motivated harassment and hate crimes has received nearly 400 calls since its launch a week ago.
Healey said that in the past two weeks, a Puerto Rican couple in West Springfield found the words “go home” keyed into their car, Ku Klux Klan newspapers were delivered to homes in Milford, and racist graffiti was found in an Attleboro High School bathroom.
Though few speakers referred to President-elect Trump by name, Healey and Treasurer Deb Goldberg both criticized his recent Cabinet appointees, which Healey called “really disturbing.”
The crowd booed as Goldberg named some of the appointees — Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions and Steve Bannon, who headed Trump’s campaign.
“We cannot afford to wait and see,” Goldberg said of the Trump administration, going on to reference a warning by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel to “never be fooled.”
“I’m not accusing anyone in particular of being an anti-Semite or being anti-everyone, but I am accusing them of — I am accusing them of nurturing, mentoring, taking advantage of and feeding the underbelly of the animal for their own interests,” Goldberg said.
Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican who was critical of Trump during the presidential race, said last week there was “way too much pre-judging going on” as Trump announced early Cabinet picks and that he would follow President Barack Obama’s lead in waiting to judge the Trump administration “by the totality of its appointments.”
Baker did not attend Monday’s rally, which organizers attributed to a scheduling conflict, but sent along a letter expressing his support.
“Our strength as a community lies in Massachusetts’ diversity and openness to the world. The commonwealth has been and always will be a welcoming state,” said the letter, which was read at the event by Anti-Defamation League Robert Trestan, the Anti-Defamation League’s regional director.
Though all the elected officials who attended the rally were Democrats, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh urged a bipartisan approach and called on attendees to seek out common ground.
“We should be tolerant of many different views,” Walsh said. “We should respect the Democratic process but we will not remain neutral when hate rears its ugly head.”
House Speaker Robert DeLeo said that it is the duty of state government to “protect all of our residents, no matter what is going on in Washington,” and said that while members of the House may disagree on policy matters, “we are united in opposing hatred and opposing intolerance.”
Senate President Stan Rosenberg read a statement that he said reflected “the sentiments of all 40 members of the Massachusetts Senate.”
“To those who feel threatened by recent events, be assured that our belief remains steadfast: everyone is entitled to the same rights and protections, and we will stand by your side to uphold the law,” the statement said.
Other elected officials who attended included Reps. Lori Ehrlich, Jonathan Hecht, David Linsky, Daniel Cullinane, Byron Rushing and Daniel Ryan; Sens. Karen Spilka, Thomas McGee, Cynthia Creem and Linda Dorcena Forry; Senator-elect Julian Cyr; Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins; Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley; and Boston City Councilors Josh Zakim and Matt O’Malley.