Whoever voters choose as the Democratic nominee for Suffolk County District Attorney on Sept. 6, the warring campaigns between interim DA Kevin Hayden and Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo have polarized a deeply divided Boston City Council along political, racial and ethnic lines.

The tension erupted Wednesday into multiple outbursts, an assault outside the council chamber and a lock down at the council's regularly scheduled weekly meeting. All of this occurred as Arroyo's most high-profile endorsers deserted his campaign.

Two conciliatory actions did little to calm the atmosphere. Dorchester councilor Frank Baker withdrew his motion to subpoena Boston Police records related to two investigations into alleged sexual assaults in 2005 and 2007 by Arroyo, and Jamaica Plain councilor Kendra Lara withdrew her counter request for police records related to Baker's guilty plea in a 1993 case of marijuana possession with intent to distribute.

Igniting the political conflagration was City Council President Ed Flynn's Monday decision to suspend Arroyo for 60 days from his chairmanship of the council’s Government Operations and Redistricting Committees in the wake of the Boston Globe's report that police had twice investigated Arroyo for sexual assault. A Globe interview with the victim of Arroyo's alleged first assault, released Tuesday evening, brought out a heightened sense of anxiety at Wednesday’s meeting.

As the increasingly fractious meeting unfolded, concern about redrawing Boston's political voting districts to equitably reflect new ethnic and racial population patterns emerged as a powerful underlying theme.

Roxbury Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson pointed out that community members in her district viewed Arroyo’s suspension from the Redistricting Committee with skepticism, a committee responsible for drawing the council district maps.

Speaking directly to council president Flynn, Anderson said: “Ed, you know I love you, you know I care about you, but that was wrong,” she said of the move. “The way this was done was wrong,” she said, adding an implication that Arroyo’s due process was violated with the suspension.

Council rules give the president explicit power to select committee leadership.

A councilor wearing a hijab stands and speaks during a city council meeting, with two other councilors seated in the foreground and a sparse audience on rows of seats in the back
City Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson spoke during an explosive council meeting Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2022. “What the [expletive] do I have to do in this [expletive] council in order to get respect as a Black woman,” Fernandes Anderson shouted tearfully.
Saraya Wintersmith GBH News

“Everyone is now super afraid that because Councilor [Liz] Breadon, a white woman, has it, now this body — because all the white councilors here stick together — that they will vote, or try to move the districts in a way that is not diverse sufficiently to vote in electeds of color,” said Fernandes Anderson before playing a voicemail left for her laced with hateful, white supremacist language.

“What the [expletive] do I have to do in this [expletive] council in order to get respect as a Black woman,” she shouted tearfully. “I am not afraid of losing the votes, I am not afraid of deceit, I am not afraid of anybody here. ... I came for my people.”

Redistricting is a time-sensitive process, and multiple people familiar with council procedure have spoken about the committee’s work being stalled as Arroyo campaigns for District Attorney.

“We have 60 days to make this decision,” said At-Large Councilor Erin Murphy, a Hayden supporter. “We should’ve been having these hearings a long time ago.”

Lara, an Arroyo supporter, said she researched the timeline of the last Redistricting Committee’s work a decade ago and found that former Councilor Bill Linehan had a similar number of hearings after more than a year of work creating new maps.

“I think that this is, again, highlighting the disparate level of expectation for white leadership and leadership of color here on the council,” Lara said.

Although Baker, another Hayden supporter, ultimately withdrew his subpoena — known as a 17F — he upset Arroyo supporters in the chamber gallery with floor remarks.

“The point of the 17F is not meant to penalize or demean anyone,” he said. “There was never a need for the District 6 Councilor [Lara] to file a 17F on me. That was done purely as an act of retaliation and in an effort to deflect and divert attention from the sexual assault allegations made against a city councilor on this body.”

“If a predator continues to roam the killing field only becomes larger,” Baker said, sending the gallery’s pro- and anti-Arroyo spectators into a hollering frenzy.

In response, Lara said her subpoena was not meant to be retaliatory, but to illustrate racial discrepancies.

“People of color in this city and on this council are not only held to higher standards, they’re also disciplined in harsher ways by leadership,” Lara said. “What we know for sure is that none of colleagues has broken any laws or any rules during their tenure on the city council. I think that my point has become salient to every single member of the community and the city.”

When the council later went into recess, spectators eventually filed out, with an anti-Arroyo man, Shawn Nelson, assaulting a pro-Arroyo woman just outside the council chamber.

Councilors were corralled into their offices until the room was cleared, eventually returning to officially adjourn. Nelson, a known anti-mask and anti-vaccine protester in the council chamber, was arrested and charged with assault and battery, affray and resisting arrest, according to the Boston Police Department.

Arroyo did not speak on the matter at Wednesday’s council meeting, but told reporters afterwards he will be in court Thursday in an effort to obtain redacted documents related to his sexual assault investigations.