BOSTON (CBS) – Roughly 2000 ‘Walk for Peace’ marchers made a silent trek through Lawrence on Sunday, reacting to five murders in just two weeks.
They began at 15 Maginnis Avenue — where Milka Rivera was shot dead along with her teen-aged son and daughter on Labor Day — and headed for a rally in front of city hall.
It was supposed to be a day of community togetherness and healing, but some participants came away angry and disgusted.
WBZ-TV’s Ken MacLeod reports
“His actions were wrong,” says marcher Domingo Melendez. “That’s not a leader.”
“So it was very surprising and shocking that it came from him,” adds marcher Rafaella Mendoza.
They’re talking about embattled Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua, who met the crowd at city hall, and found himself drawing raucous taunts from critics who believe he’s done little or nothing to make neighborhoods safer.
The encounter on the street was captured on video by a reporter for the Lawrence Eagle Tribune — Jill Harmacinski.
It shows a group tossing verbal jabs at the Mayor, who keeps his distance, surrounded by a handful of supporters.
Lantigua remains silent as the crowd continues to lambaste him for cutting police officers amid rising crime, but then he gestures several times — looking somewhat irritated.
He appears to be either mocking his detractors or calling them out — even as State Representative Marcos Devers seems to urge Lantigua to knock it off — and a march organizer pleads for calm.
Domingo Melendez was there, and is the first to admit he’s no Lantigua ally.
In fact, he’s a long time opponent.
But he says the Mayor’s lack of decorum in this instance went way overboard.
“When you’re inviting people to come over in front of you and say what they have to say,” offers Melendez, “with the intention, I think, to fight — that’s not a proper thing for a mayor to do.”
“I took it as an insult,” says Rafaella Mendoza, who thought Lantigua gestures might be directing critics to kiss his feet if they wanted something.
Like Melendez, Mendoza was part of the unsuccessful Lantigua recall effort, but says the Mayor’s gestures were a trip into the gutter — especially at an event dedicated to murder victims.
“Very disrespectful,” says Mendoza. “For a Mayor? You would not expect that from a Mayor.”
State Rep. Marcos Devers admitted to the Eagle Tribune that he was trying to calm Lantigua, in an effort to keep the confrontation from boiling over in something uglier.
“I tried to keep everyone safe,” Devers told the paper.
We called Mayor Lantigua three times and paid a visit to his office — hoping to get his explanation of Sunday’s events.
His staffers told us the Mayor would get back to us.