Elected officials, Haitians, unions and supporters gathered outside the JFK Federal Building Friday, expressing outrage over the viral images circulated earlier this week showing a Border Patrol agent on horseback whipping Haitian migrants in Texas.
“We are supposed to be a land that welcomes immigrants, but yet we are turning them away every chance that we get,” said Boston City Council at-large candidate Ruthzee Louijeune, a Haitian American. “We are supposed to be a country that celebrates our diversity, but yet we allow anti-Blackness to cloud our policy.”
Attendees at the rally included both Boston mayoral candidates; representatives from Sen. Ed Markey’s, Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s and Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s offices; and several Boston City Council and state Legislature members.
Mayoral candidate Annissa Essaibi-George said the rally sent a “loud and clear message” to President Joe Biden over the incident. Her rival, Michelle Wu, called Haiti, which has suffered an earthquake and the assassination of their president this summer, a “beacon of democracy and hope and activism and organizing.”
A group of Boston elected officials of color, including the mayoral candidates and Suffolk County DA Rachael Rollins, released a letter earlier this week denouncing the treatment of Haitian migrants at the southern border along the Rio Grande, and called for the firing of the Border Patrol agents in the viral photos.
A large group from Massachusetts 1199 SEIU, the health care workers’ union, also showed up at the rally, expressing support for their large number of Haitian members.
“Coming to an event like this is not only supporting our members, but it’s their families, their communities (and) where they come from,” Filaine Deronnette, vice president of health systems for the union, said.
“We wouldn’t be here if Haitians were from Sweden,” said attendee Ben Jerome from Watertown and originally from Haiti, repeating a theme heard throughout the rally that the poor treatment of Haitian immigrants is due to anti-Black sentiment. “I find it very inhumane the way (Biden) is treating Haitians, and I think we can do better.”