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'This Narrative Is Very False': Racist Comments Found On Campaign Signs In Holyoke

A pair of political campaign signs on a Holyoke, Massachusetts, street were recently defaced with racist comments. The signs belonged to  Joshua Garcia and Israel Rivera, who are running in separate municipal races in the November election.

Two large sheets of paper were taped to the back of the signs, and the handwritten message was lengthy. The unknown writer blamed the city's poverty and blight on "minorities."

Garcia and Rivera, who both grew up in Holyoke, are pushing back against an old, harmful mistruth they say has long divided the city — that Holyoke's significant Hispanic or Latino population, which is nearly 54%, caused the downturn in the city's once thriving economy.

Garcia is Puerto Rican and one of six candidates running for mayor of Holyoke. Whoever did this, he said, was clearly sending a racist message.

“But nevertheless, Izzy [Rivera] and I are committed to bringing Holyoke together, and letting folks know this narrative is very false," Garcia said.

Rivera, who describes himself as Latino, is running for a seat on Holyoke’s City Council. The person who did this, he said, picked the two worst people to try to prove the sign's message — that "70 percent of Holyoke’s minorities live rent free, get free food, get free medical,"  that "82 percent never worked a day in their lives."

“We both came from poverty; we both own homes," Rivera said. "Josh is a town administrator. I’m a program manager at UMass."

The notes included several unsubstantiated claims and accusations. Rivera said he’s heard this “tone” in Holyoke his whole life, though it’s usually more subtle.

Holyoke’s many challenges can’t be blamed on one group, Garcia said.  

As for addressing many of the city’s quality-of-life issues. Garcia said, "None of us Hispanic candidates want to run a race where we’re trying to represent one culture. The diversity in the city is valuable."

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