Updated at 9:19 p.m. June 8
On a recent day at a small convenience store in his neighborhood in Everett, former City Councilor Anthony DiPierro held what he called the first “listening session” of his campaign to return to office. It was a friendly gathering with a few relatives and old friends dropping in to shake hands and wish him well.
Just over a year ago, DiPierro had been forced to resign his post after it was revealed he’d shared racist memes and racial slurs online, including with other Everett officials.
His resignation came only after multiple community protests and then-Attorney General Maura Healey called on him to quit. Everett’s six-term Mayor Carlo DeMaria, a relative of DiPierro’s, never joined those calls, but in announcing the resignation, said it was “essential” for healing to begin in the city.
Now DiPierro has begun a campaign to return to City Council. He plans to be on the ballot in November when all council seats come up for a vote.
“I've made mistakes. I've apologized for them and I've worked to ... be a better person since then. I think I was made out to be something that I'm not,” said DiPierro. “I do miss representing the people of Everett, and I hope they'll recognize who I am and who I'll continue to be, and be able to get the job done.”
DiPierro said he’s taken a certificate course at Suffolk University to learn about equity, diversity and inclusion and wants to bring what he’d learned back to the City Council. But many who had called for him to step down say it would be wrong for him to return, and it's already clear a vote to return DiPierro to office will reverberate far beyond his individual ward.
DiPierro’s campaign comes as Everett’s reckoning with racism is under scrutiny. Everett is the focus of an ongoing civil rights investigation launched last year by then-U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Rachel Rollins, and the current school Superintendent Priya Tahiliani and her deputy have a pending discrimination lawsuit against the mayor and school committee members.
Lornisha Cazeau, a Black student who led some of the protests outside City Hall, said DiPierro’s campaign shows there have not been “harsh consequences” for his actions.
“Anthony DiPierro running for City Council again is the ultimate example of white privilege,” said Cazeau, now a rising senior at Everett High School. “The students of Everett High School haven’t forgotten about what happened and will never forget.”
But Cazeau isn't a voter in DiPierro’s district, Ward 3, where the three-term councilor remains popular among some in his constituency.
Rajesh Keshar, owner of Elm Street Market, which hosted the campaign event, has been DiPierro’s neighborhood for a decade. In between running the register and processing lottery tickets, he said whatever DiPierro had said in his conversations was “personal,” and he blamed unnamed political opponents for DiPierro's resignation.
“They throw him under the bus,” Keshar said. “He’s the best and he help [helps] everybody and anybody.”
Through a spokesperson, Mayor DeMaria said he "leaves local election issues to the voters to decide."
Darren Costa, who took over DiPierro’s council seat last June, will be running against him.
“We deserve better,” Costa said. “Everett is an extremely diverse city and needs officials who will put the community’s needs ahead of personal interests and biases.”
Lillian Gorham, who has lived in Everett more than 60 years, supports Costa. She said she used to vote for DiPierro, until she watched a video shared online that showed DiPierro and other officials making racist jokes.
“After watching the now infamous video with the racial slurs, my opinion of him and others was diminished,” said Gorham.
Everett's first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director Cathy Draine declined to comment directly on DiPierro's campaign but encouraged residents to vote.
"Elections present residents with the opportunity to vote for representation in Everett that reflects their voices and ideals as we continue to move forward together," said Draine.
Resident Samantha Lambert, a member of the city’s school committee, said DiPierro's run for office is “a real test for Everett.”
“What amends to the community have been made?” Lambert said, “That is a question voters in Ward 3 are going to have to contemplate.”
This story was updated to include a comment from Mayor Carlo DeMaria's spokesperson, and to correct that Rachael Rollins’ former post was as the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts.