Residents of a Connecticut town clamored to the city’s council meeting Tuesday, blasting its local leaders as unethical racists, antisemites, and homophobes.
Bristol previously made headlines when a “Keep CT White” rally was held and one of the city’s former rotary club members made less than positive comments about Black people on social media, but community members say issues run much deeper.
“I’m here today to talk about vetting, lack of judgment, and basic common sense specifically when it comes to appointments made by the current mayor [Jeff Caggiano] and his council,” Stacie Roberge addressed the crowd from the dais.
“[Councilmember Erick Rosengren’s] posts have a certain… vibe to them that by being, at the very least, insensitive to current events in those impacted and, at the most, downright racist and a clear disdain for women,” Roberge said. “Mr. Rosengren has posts referencing Three Percenters, which the Anti-Defamation League has labeled an extremist organization. He also has posts about African Americans and women.”
Roberge went to slam Rosengren’s social media posts, which allegedly include claiming during the 2012 presidential election that any white guy would have been a better choice to vote for than Barack Obama and jokes about racially targeted police brutality.
An anonymous source told The Daily Beast that Rosengren has multiple Facebook accounts, but that there are various examples that illustrate his extremist views. On one public page, multiple images indicate Rosengren’s support of Blue Lives Matter and to the Three Percenters.
Rosengren is also a member of the Bristol Housing Authority, which Roberge implies is a conflict of interest because the department “services some of [the] most vulnerable populations, people who come in all colors and genders.”
“It’s a disgrace and an embarrassment to have these people representing this city and even more concerning to know you strategically chose them without the benefit of the voting public having their say,” she said. “Mayor Caggiano, your leadership is seriously lacking and we deserve better.”
Multiple members of the public took aim at Bristol Board of Education head Jennifer Van Gorder, another appointee of Mayor Jeff Caggiano, and alleged antisemitic posts she made on Facebook.
In October, Van Gorder apologized for a meme she shared in 2021 that displayed the Star of David with the words “COVID” and “Scamdemic,” claiming she was previously “unaware that the depiction of the gold Star of David is offensive to [her] fellow citizens of the Jewish community.”
“While the meme was not my creation, I understood the meaning as the concern for Government overreach, and the willingness to disregard religious freedoms and bodily autonomy,” Van Gorder wrote on Facebook. “My advocacy has always been for the rights and liberty of all people and against overreaching governing power.”
Bristol-area resident Deb Schur stood at the front of Tuesday’s meeting to question the mayor and—what she considered—an apathetic attitude regarding bigotry.
“With Ms. Van Gorder’s antisemitic posts, and now in light of tonight’s revelations about racism found on Facebook posts of yet another of your mayoral appointments, it seems obvious that taking a spin through their [social media] pages could have prevented you from making these misguided appointments,” Schur said.
“Maybe you were aware of your blatant displays of homophobia, antisemitism, and now racism and you’re okay with it,” she added.
Parent Mike Erosenko called Van Gorder out for previous comments she made about the LGBTQ+ community before railing about her lack of qualifications to run the city’s board of education.
“‘I believe there is an epidemic of kids coming out as bisexual or whatever just trying to fit in,’” Erosenko quoted a 2021 comment from Van Gorder.
According to The Bristol Edition, Erosenko left the city’s Republican Party after it endorsed Van Gorder for board of education, and Democrats have consistently been against her appointment.
Over the last couple of years, there has been a rise in extremist behavior. The Bristol Edition reported more racial slurs and swastikas being discovered around the city. Flyers from a white nationalist, neo-Nazi organization have also started to circulate, CT Insider reported.
In August, Caggiano announced Republican activist Jim Albert would be resigning from the Bristol Rotary Club over problematic social media posts.
“Whites can’t fix black culture. The more blacks hate everything and everyone, including themselves, the farther behind they will get,” Albert wrote Aug. 17, according to the Hartford Courant.
Neither the mayor nor any of Bristol’s council members, all Republicans, immediately returned The Daily Beast’s multiple requests for comment in time of publication.
Tuesday was the city’s final council meeting ahead of elections on Nov. 7.