Following are comments from elected officials in and around New Bedford regarding the offensive images posted on Shawn Oliver’s Facebook page.

Mayor Jon Mitchell

“I have reviewed the crude images posted on Facebook by City Councillor-elect Shawn Oliver that purport to comment on transgender rights. I want to make clear that I categorically condemn the postings. Coming from an individual who is about to assume public office, they are especially abhorrent. New Bedford has long distinguished itself as a city that honors and protects the rights of all of its residents, and the messages conveyed by the postings are antithetical to our core values. No matter how long ago the postings appeared, it is imperative that the councilor-elect repudiate them. The residents of the city and particularly Ward 3 need to be confident that he is committed to serving everyone.”

(From the mayor’s Facebook page)

City  Council President Linda Morad

“I’m hoping that people can understand and respect that (that councilors don’t publicly criticize other councilors).”

“Councilor-elect Oiver has different opinions than I have about issues, this one included. I don’t believe the council as a whole would in any way denounce or have any negative feelings, or take any action about any group in our community, including the LGBTQ or any other community. Most people know that my nephew is, and has been openly gay for many years. My family will soon celebrate his wedding to his partner of over 10 years. So it saddens me that public citizens, private citizens, anyone would make any type of derogatory comments to the LGBTQ community, or any community.”

(From an interview on Tim Weisberg’s WBSM-AM radio show)


City Councilor Shane Burgo

“We continue to witness disturbing setbacks and rising hate and violence targeting transgender people in the United States and around the world. This is wrong. Those with marginalized genders and sexualities are entitled to all the rights, opportunities, and protections that belong to every human on this planet. LGBTQIA+ people are an essential part of families and communities — teachers, first responders, public officials, doctors, lawyers, front-line workers, and friends who enrich and strengthen our everyday lives.

“Hate in all its pernicious forms, including attacks on the transgender community, have no place in New Bedford and must be unequivocally condemned.”

(From his Facebook page)

“It’s important for my new colleague to understand [that he is] filling the seat for all of New Bedford.” Burgo said that when constituents — even students — raise concerns about your conduct, “you have to learn to answer.”

(From later interview with The New Bedford Light)

City Councilor Ian Abreu

“No one approached me while I was at City Hall. I went to the meeting to partake in the ceremony. I always want to hear what people have to say,” he said, on why he did not speak to the New Bedford High School protesters in the City Council chambers while Councilor Shawn Oliver was being sworn in.

(From interview with New Bedford Light)

“I don’t support any anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in my household, within any of my friends or family circle … I’ll release a statement on that when the time is appropriate. … It’s up to him to talk about what he did. There seems to be a mea culpa on his part.”

(From a New Bedford Light interview)

City Councilor Ryan Pereira

“I was planning on releasing a statement. I am not the Ward 3 councilor’s boss, those are the constituents in Ward 3. I wholeheartedly condemn all forms of hate and the postings themselves. I think they were hurtful and hateful … First and foremost, all students deserve to feel safe” in their school, he said, adding that he was seeking to speak with School Committee member Bruce Oliveira about the matter.

(From a New Bedford Light interview)

City Councilor Brad Markey

“Actually I haven’t even seen them (Oliver’s Facebook memes). I’ve heard about them. I hadn’t even known there was a group outside of here tonight (the City Hall protest). But that’s why I’ve always said ‘You’ve got to watch what you post out there.’ And I think he, you gotta be, you’ve got to have feelings about what you put out there. And everything else. I would try to take what you throw out there is not going to be something that’s gonna alienate people.”

(From a New Bedford Light interview)

City councilors Brian Gomes, Naomi Carney, Maria Giesta, Derek Baptiste, and Scott Lima

No comments that The New Bedford Light has found. These councilors did not return The Light’s requests for an interview or statement.

School Committee member Melissa Costa

Costa circulated the protest at New Bedford High School, handing out voter registration forms in both English and Spanish. After about an hour, she said she had collected almost 20 registration forms (in Massachusetts, voters can register as young as 16 years old).

While at the protest, Costa condemned the Facebook posts.“I absolutely denounce any meme that targets disenfranchised and marginalized people,” she said, adding that she had already spoken with fellow School Committee member Colleen Dawicki, saying they were hoping to draft an official response.

(From a New Bedford Light interview)

School Committee member Chris Cotter

Cotter spoke against the student demonstration Friday afternoon after the protest on WBSM’s The Barry Richard Show. Cotter, a police officer who formerly worked as a school resource officer, said the protest should not have happened during school hours. “In my opinion, there is a time and place for what is being identified as a protest,” Cotter said. “I don’t believe in walkouts for an issue that has nothing to do with schools.”

Cotter, the president of the police union that endorsed Oliver, appeared to downplay the offensiveness of the candidate’s post. “This is an individual who was running for public office, who in his Facebook had a meme, a picture, whatever people want to refer to it as, and it was offensive to a group,” he told WBSM. But he said “it’s only offensive to an individual who is being made aware of it by an individual who pushed this to make it that much more of a media frenzy.”

Cotter also criticized the students’ demand to remove SROs from schools, suggesting that local activist group the Coalition for Social Justice organized the protest. He based his accusation on the fact that the group originally resurfaced Oliver’s posts and that they have long advocated for the removal of SROs in schools.

(Interview with Barry Richard on his WBSM show)

School Committee member Ross Grace

A former teacher and school administrator, Grace praised the students in a WBSM interview for what he identified as civic engagement and the courage to publicly express themselves.

“When our students are being conscious of what’s going on in their community, when they are being conscious of the words, the actions, and thoughts of city officials and they become an active participant, that’s how democracy works. That’s how our system works,” he said.

Grace declined to identify Oliver by name or condemn the Facebook posts but he described them as “hurtful” and said city officials must exercise caution with the things they say publicly because of the power that they wield.

“Obviously those young adults out there were hurting, and they’re concerned about how the thoughts and ideas of city officials will shape their policies,” he said.

(Interview with Marcus Ferro on his WBSM show)

School Committee member Colleen Dawicki

“I strongly affirm the right of all NBPS students to feel safe in expressing their identity and to feel the acceptance and belonging that is essential to every child’s ability to thrive. Why do I condemn statements and actions targeting the safety and identity of our students who identify as LGBTQIA+? Because this rhetoric endangers mental health among young people who already experience threats of violence and marginalization and exclusion in their own families.

“I believe the role of the School Committee is to understand what it will take to build an environment where young people who identify as LGBTQIA+ feel safe, affirmed, and supported by the NBPS community. I look forward to working with my colleagues and student leaders to take those next steps and direct resources accordingly.”

(Statement answering New Bedford Light’s request)

School Committee member Joaquim “Jack” Livramento

“All men are created equal. The bedrock of our society needs to be expanded to say all persons are created equal. Whether we are black or white, whether we are ethnically different or of a different sexual orientation, whether we are female or male, whether we believe in a creator or not, whether we are Jew, Catholic, Moslem, or Protestant or of any different religious belief, we are all created equal by our creator. And most importantly, we must live by that credo.

“I support our LGBTQ+ community 100% and our students in particular. We need to stop this type of bullying by any person against any other person.”

(Statement answering New Bedford Light’s request)

School Committee member Bruce Oliveira

“Thank you for reaching out on this. You are correct that I have not made a public statement on this event nor do I plan to at this time.”

(Statement answering New Bedford Light’s request)

State Sen. Mark Montigny

“Apologizing for hurtful behavior is only the beginning. Far more action is needed to listen, learn, and to evolve from the mindset that allowed the councilor to assume that this choice was okay and that it would not have a harmful impact upon others.  

“We must all strive to understand that those harmed by these posts are under relentless assault in this country and must face the constant barrage set upon them by the ongoing cultural war fueled by irresponsible leaders. If there is a silver lining in this situation, it is that the councilor has an opportunity to seek a better understanding, but it will take a lot of work on his part over a period of time. 

“The voters of Ward 3 have given him that chance by electing him, and he has made a pledge to represent everyone, which he will have to demonstrate. Most importantly, I want to commend the young people who have demonstrated courage by standing up for themselves and asserting their rights. They give me, and like-minded leaders, hope that the up-and-coming generations will help build a more thoughtful and compassionate society.”

(Statement answering New Bedford Light’s request)  

State Rep. Antonio Cabral

“Hateful, dehumanizing rhetoric has no place in our city, and it is not, under any circumstances, ever acceptable or ‘funny.’

“I commend the New Bedford High School students for assembling their protest and calling out the adults around them to do better. The freedom of speech and the right to assemble is inextricably linked to our right to vote. 

“I hope the protest serves as a call to action for our community to pay closer attention to local elections, to engage more with candidates throughout the process, and to turn out to vote. Local elections are just as important — and even more impactful on our day-to-day lives — than higher profile national elections. 

“I hope the energy unleashed by these student protests will be channeled into the municipal election this fall.”

(Statement answering New Bedford Light’s request)

State Rep. Chris Hendricks

“I think it’s sad that someone interested in public service would post something so offensive, twisted, and immature.  

“Folks in the LBGT+ community, particularly transgender folks, already have a culture war being waged against them from the far-right. Punching down on our transgender community is gross and not something leaders are made of. We should be punching UP at the forces that want to demean and belittle our residents, not the other way around. 

“Also, as someone who represents disabled, low-wage workers, I also take particular exception with (Oliver’s) disdain towards working folks relative to his post on the minimum wage. 

“A city councillor should be a champion for working people, not a barrier to higher wages and better working conditions. I am not surprised the labor advocates supported his opponent in the special election and hope they organize around someone to replace him in November.” 

(Statement answering New Bedford Light’s request)

State Rep. Bill Straus

“There is no defense for the postings and their explicit and implicit messages of intolerance, contempt and disrespect. An apology, as has been made, is a starting point only for the councilor as he serves the balance of the term to which he has been elected recently. Future actions are what will ultimately count.”

(Statement provided at The New Bedford Light’s request)

State Rep. Chris Markey

“I think the posts are stupid, foolish and immature. He’s apologized. He should move on and grow from it. We come into these (elected) positions with faults and we’ll leave with faults.”

Markey did not condemn the Oliver memes and questioned the fairness of asking other officials for condemnations. 

He said he is against discrimination against transgender individuals in housing, employment or education but when the LGBTQ+ protection bill was before the Legislature, he acknowledged he voted against it, as he was seeking exceptions for some private facilities where he said he wanted to protect individuals who are uncomfortable in situations like open locker rooms with stages of undress and trans individuals.

(From interview with The New Bedford Light) 

State Rep. Paul Schmid

Schmid initially said he had not seen the Facebook memes until The Light sent them to him. But on principle, he condemned hate and intolerance.

“In all we do, I abhor the climate of hate that is sometimes raising itself, even on the South Coast. I’m glad to hear the councilor apologized.”

Schmid said that there have been other recent displays of intolerance to transgender individuals, noting the public library drag queen storytime that had drawn protests.

After seeing the memes, Schmid said he felt the individual who posted them was “pretty disrespectful to the LGBTQ community, to women, to and to low-wage earners. 

“It’s not the kind of person I’d want to be associated with,” he said. “Let’s hope he was really genuine when he apologized.”

(From interview with The New Bedford Light)

If you have an opinion or comments that you’d like to share about Shawn Oliver or the offensive memes or the Ward 3 city councilor’s apology, send it in an email to: Please include your name and a contact number where you can be reached for verification.