NEW BEDFORD- A rally lead by the New Bedford Human Relations Commission to celebrate peace, tolerance, and diversity took place at the New Bedford Public Library Thursday evening.

According to event organizers, it was created in response to incidents of intolerance around the country, as well as in New Bedford.

New Bedford Chief of Police Joseph Cordeiro delivered a speech to the crowd totaling roughly fifty people, dictating what he believes must be done to “overcome and override hate” in the city.

“Yes we are all created equally, but unique. Unique to ourselves individually,” claimed Chief Cordeiro.

“We are all human beings entitled to equal treatment. When we begin to remove those perceptional barriers we see that we are built the same. When you remove the uniform from the police officer you will find a human being,” the Chief said.

Chief Cordeiro then gave the microphone to the ten speakers of varying religious, racial, sexual, and cultural backgrounds who would share their advice and experiences. Each speaker represented a specific community that event organizers argue needed to be heard, including the LGBTQ community, immigrants, Jews, Muslims, and Christians of New Bedford.

Dennis Demello spoke of his experiences being a gay man and the intolerance he and many others like him have gone through. DeMello spoke of an incident that took place in January where he came home to a homophobic slur spray-painted on his fence.

“Go away fags. Those were the words spray-painted on my home this past January,” DeMello said to open his speech. “I remember not knowing what to think at the time. Who would do this? Why would they do this?”

DeMello closed his remarks by following a similar protocol to that of other speakers. He finished his speech professing solidarity amongst all people, as well as expressing defiance by proclaiming that the LGBTQ community “will not be going anywhere”.

Representing the immigrant community, Priscilla Gamboa told the story of her journey to the United States, as well as her experiences. Gamboa spoke against stereotypes placed upon immigrants, and professed love for her new home in America, which she says has not been “the most welcoming door.”

“We are not all criminals. We are not ‘bad-hombres’. We come here with hopes and dreams, and I can only share my hopes and dreams, and know that America is my home. I made it my home, and of course it hasn’t always been a very welcoming door,” Gamboa said.

Thursday night's rally also brought together something of an odd couple. Ward Four City Councillor and outspoken liberal activist Dana Rebeiro appeared on the steps of the New Bedford Free Public Library speaking with WBSM right-winger Barry Richard.

Both Richard and Rebeiro met for coffee prior to the rally to sort out differences and learn more about each other's life experiences. Richard said the discussion highlighted the importance of listening to one another.

"I think maybe we can find some common ground to try to find some solutions to some of these problems rather than yelling at each other or just putting our fingers in our ears and saying, 'Well, I can't hear you, I can't hear you,' because that's childish and it's not working," said Richard.

Councillor Rebeiro admitted to being "addicted to being right," and made a pledge.

"To be an active listener," said Rebeiro. "And even when I disagree, to keep my mouth shut and my ears open, and to give that person that respect. And I think if we continue to do that, it'll be a circle and then we'll get that respect. I saw it today and I know it works."

Mayor of New Bedford Jon Mitchell did not attend the rally and provided a statement citing the city’s dedication to tolerance and inclusion in a press-release.

“New Bedford has long been a beacon of tolerance and inclusivity throughout its history, from its days as a major stop on the Underground Railroad and center of abolitionist leadership, to its later industrial growth and destination for immigrants to the United States,” Mitchell said.

“It is important that the people of New Bedford continue to hold fast to the ideals of peace, diversity, and equity and this rally is an occasion to reinforce our commitment as individuals and a community” he said.

As the speeches concluded, those in attendance were invited to the Southeastern Massachusetts Labor Council for discussion with speakers and the We Won’t Go Back New Bedford organization.

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