New Bedford LGBTQ Students, Allies Plan Protest Over Oliver’s Election
New Bedford High School’s LGBTQ students and their allies are planning a protest at the school Friday afternoon over the election of Ward 3 City Councilor-Elect Shawn Oliver, stating in a press release that they “feel threatened and completely unsafe by the councilor and the people who voted for him.”
“We are standing united with each other because the adults in charge failed us. We have a right to live our truths without fear and hate,” the students wrote.
Oliver was elected in Tuesday’s special election for the vacant Ward 3 seat, defeating challenger Carmen Amaral 414-307, with a 6.83 percent voter turnout.
The 39-year-old correctional officer and constable was the subject of controversy leading into the election, as just days prior the Coalition for Social Justice, which backed Amaral in the race, put out a press release admonishing Oliver for Facebook posts the organization characterized as “transphobic” and “misogynistic.”
The press release signed by the “Student Body of New Bedford High School” was released to the media at 9:03 p.m. Thursday night, stating that the students will “be exercising (their) Constitutional right to peacefully protest” Friday afternoon, March 3, from 12:40 p.m. to 2:40 p.m.
The students also characterized Oliver’s Facebook posts as “hateful homophobic, transphobic, (and) misogynist” and took issue with Oliver’s statement to the press regarding those posts, in response to the Coalition for Social Justice release, when he stated, “I guess we’re doing something right.”
“That statement let us know that these are his core beliefs,” the students wrote.
WBSM reached out to Oliver through text and Facebook message Thursday night regarding the planned protest but did not receive a response as of this writing.
New Bedford High School is located in Ward 3, something the students pointed out.
“Thousands of students and teachers spend 6+ hours in Ward 3 each day and we should feel safe in the neighborhood that educates us,” the students wrote. “Instead, we feel threatened and completely unsafe by the councilor and the people who voted for him.”
The students’ release also mentions that they are concerned that none of the elected officials in New Bedford spoke out or condemned Oliver’s posts.
“Who is really protecting us? Not the (School Resource Officers) that are represented by the New Bedford Police Union,” the students wrote. “A union that continued to endorse Mr. Oliver after his social media posts were revealed.”
The students also listed their demands ahead of the planned protest, which are as follows, in their own words from the press release:
"1. The New Bedford Public School administrators and the New Bedford Police Department must not impede on our right to peacefully protest. Keep your distance from protesters.
2. Every elected official in our city must individually explain why they chose silence over hate.
3. Every elected official must individually condemn Shawn Oliver's social media posts.
4. Every elected official must condemn hate and violence towards women, LGBTQ, and BIPOC communities.
5. As a leader of our schools, Superintendent Thomas Anderson must adhere to #1. He also must condemn Shawn Oliver's social media posts and explain why he was silent when the New Bedford Police Union supported hate which trickles down to students.
6. Remove SROs out of our schools. If the New Bedford Police Union and police officers can endorse hate, are LGBTQ students and girls/women safe?
7. The South Coast LGBTQ+ Network must make a public statement and explain why they were silent."
South Coast LGBTQ+ Network President Andrew Pollack did condemn Oliver’s Facebook posts with a call Monday night to WBSM’s SouthCoast Tonight, but pointed out that he was doing so as an individual and not on behalf of the organization because of its nonprofit status.
“I was upset by the posts that were made, by the lack of sensitivity,” Pollack said. “It is disturbing, I think, for our community, and the insensitivity I think is concerning as a politician, because a politician needs to represent the entire community, not just one side or the other side, but hopefully all of us together.”
Oliver also called into the program Monday night and discussed the posts with host Marcus Ferro. Hear both calls in the podcast below: