If you live in Cambridge, Somerville, or downtown Boston, then Hyde Park is probably as much on your radar as New Hampshire. Which is a shame, because from the library and YMCA, to its natural beauty, to fantastic hole-in-the-wall joints and some of the city proper’s last relatively quiet squares, it’s a truly special, if understated, slice of the Hub. As are the parts of Mattapan and Roslindale that also comprise Boston City Council District 5.
Not all is well down south, though. Sadly, there’s something of an old-school alignment among the receding white aristocracy, which was once seen as indomitable during the reign of Mayor-for-life Tom Menino, but that is now clearly fading. Despite occasional progressive grunts and frequent photo ops with diverse constituents, these relics don’t quite see things in the same light as most modern multicultural Bostonians. Take, for example, outgoing District 5 Councilor Tim McCarthy, who has historically had bad positions on cannabis, endorsed Gov. Charlie Baker in 2018, and often suffers from the same Caucasian derangement syndrome as the governor. Uncritically devoted to the law enforcement side of the thin blue line, McCarthy recently showed his stripes by pushing for an ordinance that would prohibit protesters from wearing masks on public property.
“When did society say it was okay to throw cups of urine and bottles at police officers?” McCarthy recently said to WBZ NightSide host Dan Rea, a vocal Black Lives Matter skeptic. The councilor cited no evidence of golden showers during counterprotest suppression at September’s Straight Pride Parade, nor did he criticize the Trump-fueled trolls behind the ordeal. Instead, McCarthy turned the heat up on the real enemy, potentially armed demonstrators: “When did people wake up in the morning and say, ‘Hey, let’s go to a peaceful protest, but don’t forget your razors and your keys for handcuffs, and God forbid, don’t forget to bring your masks.’”
Having lived there for five years during Menino’s tenure, I often compare Hyde Park to the suburban throes of Toronto, or at least what I know of them from coverage of that city’s crack-smoking ex-mayor, Rob Ford. In order to drive a wedge between the urban and environmentally minded downtown set that disapproved of his reckless behavior, and the bedroom communities that backed him, Ford openly railed against not just transit equity, but went so far as to threaten to dismantle bike and bus lanes. And the play worked, because more idiots and bigots voted than did those who care about the people who tyrants like Ford tend to threaten.
Though small potatoes to the fully loaded skins with sour cream and bacon bits that the Toronto mayor grew to be before passing in 2016, in his asinine attempt to ban masks from certain public spaces some of the time, McCarthy, like Ford, is assuming a demonstrably flawed position—in this case, that the First Amendment should take a back seat to a police force that neglected to wear body cameras during that same protest yet is calling for all demonstrators from here to eternity to be more transparent, not to mention vulnerable to increasingly ubiquitous biometric surveillance. And the councilor, I believe, is doing it to pander to the All Lives Matter crowd that apparently still has a base in Hyde Park.
As Elizabeth Rucker, a spokesperson for the group Solidarity Against Hate-Boston (SAH-B), said about the McCarthy initiative, “Mask and ‘hoodie’ bans are a direct attack on anti-fascist activists of all races.” Another SAH-B organizer added, “After events such as the Straight Pride Parade, activists whose identities were discovered and published online were targeted for harassment and violence by the fascist organizers and targeted for surveillance by the police. … Based on BPD’s systemic and demonstrable targeting of Muslim, black, and brown communities, it is frankly irresponsible to create legislative cover for them to decide who is allowed to wear what in public space[s].”
No doubt about it. But as long as intellectually simple goons like McCarthy have power, such sensible positions will be ignored by many, even as the Boston City Council becomes more diverse. For his replacement, McCarthy is backing Maria Esdale Farrell, who works as an aide in his City Hall office. Esdale Farrell has expressed interest in focusing on bread-and-butter local issues, whereas her opponent, public defender Ricardo Arroyo, has pledged to do more than merely focus on constituent services in the minority-majority district and is pledging to work to address underlying inequity. He decided to run after the incumbent voted against a proposal to give renters more protections, and with a social justice crusader like Arroyo leading, it seems the district can emerge on the right side of history.
Under the chosen heir to Tim “the Mask” McCarthy, who as the Bay State Banner first reported said in a speech at Esdale Farrell’s primary night event that supporters of Arroyo, who was born and raised in District 5 and whose standout endorsements are all people of color, are “nonsense people who don’t have boots on the ground like we do,” I’m not so sure.
CHRIS FARAONE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.