By Gordon Davis
Worcester City Councilor Konstantina (Konnie) Lukes has been a Worcester politician (serving on the Worcester school committee and city council) for almost 40 years. Lately, she has been scapegoating refugees and immigrants. In September 2016, at a Worcester City Council meeting, Lukes said, “We see signs here basically accusing us of being racist. I have yet to hear anybody tell me what I have done that is racist… Give me names, dates, times.”
Two months later, on November 15, 2016, Councilor Lukes voted to harass and terrorize immigrants and refugees. She targeted Muslims and Hispanic people. Lukes voted in favor of a petition before the Worcester City Council regarding the “financial” and “criminal” impact of newcomers to Worcester. The petition was drawn up by and is being pushed hard by William Breault. Here is a small part of Breault’s petition – he wants the following from the city manager: “… information from the City Administration on the financial impact incurred by the city for processing refugees or asylum seekers during the past five years, including the location of housing provided for them and the source of funding for that housing.”
Worcester city councilors Michael Gaffney, Moe Bergman and Lukes signed onto this financial petition – how much money it costs the city to house and process newcomers and refugees.
Lukes was the sole Worcester city councilor who signed on to the criminal section of Breault’s petition. She voted to seek the records of immigrants arrested by the Worcester police.
Lukes could have acknowledged the positive impact that immigrants and refugees have on Worcester/America. She could have sought the number of hate crimes committed against refugees and immigrants in Worcester. Instead, she sought the opposite.
Billy Breault, a longtime Main South resident, is known for many of his controversial, sometimes racist stances, such as trying to stop a funeral home from conducting the preparation of a Muslim man’s body for burial. On November 17, 2016, Breault tried to get support for his anti-refugee petition at a neighborhood meeting, which Lukes attended. Incredibly, instead of Councilor Lukes disowning Breault’s overtly racist petitions, she doubled down in her support of them. (Some folks have called Breault’s petitions Nazi policies.)
There was a protest outside Breault’s meeting – pushback by many people in the community, including the groups Show Up Against Racism, the Progressive Labor Party and Catholic Worker. These groups and others held signs. One sign read: “Stop Nazis’ Hate and Lies”; another sign said “No Racist Immigration Laws.” Inside the meeting some people engaged Breault and Councilor Lukes in heated discussion.
Councilor Lukes’ stance reminds me of the recent racist rants made by the Governor of Maine, Paul LePage. Governor LePage has stated that Maine’s opioid crisis is caused by Black and Hispanic people moving to Maine from Massachusetts. He has used the word “niggers” and “cunts” in his racist and sexist rants.
Like Lukes, Governor LePage has asserted that he is not a racist and that the people who are calling him a racist are themselves racist.
A reporter in Maine, Gattine, said the following:
“LePage floated the remarkable notion that calling out racism is equivalent to using racist and sexist slurs during his radio interview Tuesday, saying that being called racist is ‘like calling a black man the ‘N’ word or a woman the ‘C’ word. It just absolutely knocked me off my feet.”
After 40 years of political life during which time she showed much paranoia and wallowed in sensationalism, it is time for City Councilor Konnie Lukes to retire. In response to Lukes’ stance on this latest issue, many of her opponents are preparing to resist her – and President Elect Donald Trump’s fascist policies of mass deportations and a Muslim registry.