COVID

Mayor Michelle Wu says she’s received racist messages in response to vaccine requirement

“Unfortunately, this isn’t something that I bear alone.”

David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.

Mayor Michelle Wu talked about the “hateful messages” she’s received since announcing a citywide vaccine requirement at restaurants, gyms, and entertainment venues on Boston Public Radio Wednesday.

The city’s first female and first Asian American mayor told radio hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan about the constant calls associating her “with the same hateful, racist, xenophobic language that the former president used in describing the virus and its origins and who is to blame.”

“Unfortunately, this isn’t something that I bear alone,” said Wu, who has been on the job about a month. “I know I can count on more than one hand the number of women of color, elected officials, in Massachusetts who have experienced similar hatred, similar protests at events. We won’t be intimidated from doing the right thing.”

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Wu spoke on the show about the new mandate, which requires workers and patrons at certain indoor venues to show proof of vaccination. It goes into effect on Jan. 15, with people needing to show they’ve at least received the first dose. By Feb. 15, they will need to show full vaccination.

Wu noted that some of the protestors chanted “U.S.A.” and sang patriotic songs to protest the vaccine mandate.

She said to use patriotism to oppose vaccines and to portray people who feel differently as unpatriotic is “completely backward.”  

“There is still a part of our society, even in this state, even in this city, that really feels like something is being taken away from them,” Wu said. “That is based in misinformation, it’s based in, I think at some level, hatred, and fear and confusion.”

COVID-19

Wu said she put this mandate in place to protect businesses that she believes would face the same sort of pushback if they tried to implement these measures on their own without relying on the city for support.

“This is why we need to do it,” she said. “When we have clear guidance across the board, that lifts that burden off our organizations, and entrepreneurs, and our community.”

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Braude asked her how it feels to have these sentiments directed at her, and Wu described it as disappointing and, in some moments, rattling.

For example, in the past few days Wu, who is normally very attached to her devices and social media, said she can’t bear to unlock her phone and read “another dozen hateful messages” from people, often from across the country and outside the city, “who feel enraged at Boston taking a leadership role here.”

“Unfortunately, it’s nothing that I am experiencing by myself. A lot of women of color, a lot of people of color in leadership positions, a lot of Asian Americans in this moment through the pandemic — this is a very familiar experience, unfortunately,” she said.

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