Like many cities, New Bedford has problems born out of the death of George Floyd.

At a recent celebration of the late civil rights leader Congressman John Lewis, a small group of Black Lives Matters activists physically imposed themselves on the event. The celebration of Rep. Lewis was organized by the New Bedford Human Rights Commission and it included members of the local civil rights, religious, and political community.

New Bedford has a direct connection to the late congressman. Lewis once visited the city at the request of then-Mayor Scott W. Lang. Lang and Lewis, along with Congressman Barney Frank and community leaders, marched across the city in an effort to stop gang-related violence. Congressman Lewis attended the wake of a mother who had been killed by a gang. Lewis spoke to school children in New Bedford about his life and his struggles and about the great things an individual can do when they avoid being a hoodlum.

In the aftermath of the death of Floyd, many cities – including Boston, Brockton, and Providence, Rhode Island – have experienced rioting and looting. New Bedford has experienced protests, but no rioting and limited hooliganism. The lack of mayhem in New Bedford has been a credit to the civil rights activists, law enforcement, and local elected officials and the crossover between the folks who are all neighbors.

That harmony is now on a razor's edge. The small militant group of BLM activists who interrupted the Lewis tribute successfully shouted down Mayor Jon Mitchell and prevented him from speaking on the steps of New Bedford City Hall. Mitchell, a former federal prosecutor, decided it wasn't appropriate to embarrass his city, and he graciously removed himself from the event. Mitchell knew it wasn't about him.

Previously, Mayor Mitchell and his family have been subjected to late-night protests in front of his home. There has been at least one incident of reported gunfire (or possibly fireworks, but with the same intent to intimidate) in front of the family home of the mayor.

The city of New Bedford has a broad array of leaders. Some of those leaders need to step up and prevent the city from decaying into violence before it is too late.

Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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