After last week’s bombastic Council meeting regarding allegations of racism, and the launch of an official City investigation into Councillor Giovanni Recupero’s actions in the matter, Youth Commissioner Branden Garcia said he is now calling for Recupero’s resignation and he also said the entire City Council needs to re-evaluate how it operates.
“The City Council does have a problem and I hope this makes it clear it’s not a Recupero problem and they are all responsible,” he said in an interview last Friday next to the Columbus statue. “They are all in a situation where they should hold each other accountable. In a professional board like the City Council all that should matter is how people are affected. I applaud the drive I see in Recupero. I know he wants the best for the city…However, I think what matters the most is our intent because this man has said offensive things to others in the past. Can we make productive change if we have racial bias on the City Council? Without this bias, how much more could we do?”
He added that since the incident with Recupero on Feb. 23, and him standing up for himself with others on March 8, he has heard from many that the alleged behavior isn’t isolated.
“He’s allegedly done this for a while from what I understand,” Garcia said. “It’s time for people to start holding him accountable. Allegedly this isn’t the first time and if it was, then fine, it’s a correction. It’s not the first time, and I’m just the first to not tolerate it…The City Council has to start functioning differently…I am here because it wasn’t just a racist problem, but a disrespect problem.”
Garcia, 18, is at the heart of a situation where he alleges he was accosted twice by Recupero after the Feb. 23 meeting following what was a contentious vote to remove the Christopher Columbus statue in Chelsea Square. After giving a presentation with fellow Chelsea High student, Richard Flores, he has alleged – and City Solicitor Cheryl Fisher Watson is investigating the matter – that Recupero allegedly harassed him and Flores in the Chambers and then allegedly a second time on the steps in the hallway about their opinion. That was all revisited on March 8 when Garcia returned to protest how he and Flores were treated, and to add to a growing number of people calling for an investigation.
At that meeting, Recupero apologized and said he was sorry, and he didn’t mean to scare anyone. However, he completely refuted the idea that he’s a “white supremacist” and lashed out at those that alleged he was.
Garcia said it’s completely untrue that he called Recupero a “white supremacist,” but only said the statue represented a system of white supremacy, and not taking it down would be supporting that system of supremacy in a community that has a heavy Latino majority.
“No one called them white supremacists,” he said. “I didn’t call them white supremacists. I said they would be condoning white supremacy if they didn’t vote to take it down.”
He said things went sideways when Recupe to change your name” several times.
That continued again outside the Chambers as the two teens, both very scared, tried to leave City Hall by the steps. Garcia alleges that Recupero yelled down at them from above once again about not forgetting to change their name. Garcia also alleged that Recupero made taunting comments about cancelling Thanksgiving, and he’d be happy to vote on getting rid of Thanksgiving as a holiday.
“I was very anxious and not okay,” he said. “It was very frightening for me. Richard Flores was the one who told him to stop. Richard stood up for me. I was literally trembling and freaking out…We told him we weren’t trying to erase Hispanic heritage. Richard again told him to stop…We both went out to the parking lot because I didn’t feel comfortable by myself.”
“I didn’t say I wanted him to resign, but after the last meeting, I would like to see him resign because of what happened at that meeting,” he said. “I found it appalling. I knew I had to go in even though I was scared because to be brave is to do something you’re scared of.” In the end, Garcia said he is glad City Solicitor Cheryl Fisher Watson has started an investigation. She confirmed that to the paper this week, saying she will begin reviewing the facts and interviewing people directly involved. However, he said he think there needs to be a self-evaluation by the Council as a whole as to what it tolerates, and when it holds other members accountable.