BOSTON - Phil Haggerty has lived in East Boston for five years and has never seen anything quite like this.
On Thursday, Haggerty and his girlfriend spent over an hour tearing down anti-immigrant flyers put up by a white supremacist group.
Community leaders spoke out against the hateful flyers, which contained messages saying 'Keep America American' and calling undocumented immigrants criminals.
Residents were shocked to see hundreds of these flyers posted around the neighborhood, especially considering the large percentage of immigrants who make up the East Boston population.
Immigrants who live, work and own businesses in the area have shaped the community.
"Shocked," said Haggerty. "It’s part of the reason why we had to go see for ourselves because I couldn’t believe it. This is a community largely of immigrants, a diverse community. Very welcoming. And we just had to go verify."
“It was just the neighborly thing to do.” Phil from East Boston tore down more than 50 flyers from #WhiteSupremacist group promoting local elected leaders to swiftly respond @boston25 pic.twitter.com/gZxExDLKsZ— Crystal Haynes (@crystalhaynes) February 15, 2019
Haggerty and his girlfriend began taking down the flyers when he got out of work at around 11 p.m., removing about 60 of them after walking around for more than an hour on Valentine's Day.
"It’s important neighbors in this community are looking out for each other," said Haggerty. "I think it’s important that we’re living up a message of solidarity and that we’re not allowing white supremacist hate speech in or neighborhood."
Mayor Marty Walsh posted a response to the flyers on Twitter, sending a message to immigrants saying, "Boston is your home and you'll always be welcomed in our city."
In a joint statement along with Sen. John Boncore, Rep. Adrian Madaro and Councilor Lydia Edwards, Walsh condemned the flyers' message.
"We want to stamp it out, we want to be very clear," said Councilwoman Edwards. "We’re all standing quite firmly against what happened and making sure that everyone knows that we stand in solidarity."
Haggerty says the reaction to his own post on social media over the flyers and the pledge for lawmarkers is inspiring.
"I was actually surprised it got such a reaction, but I was also inspired by the number of people that were posting online, reaching out to me personally," said Haggerty.
However, the flyers weren't just put up in Haggerty's neighborhood. An investigation found flyers in different parts of East Boston, according to Councilwoman Edwards.
"We had folks down in Maverick, by the T-station, we had folks on Princeton Street," said Councilwoman Edwards. "It came up the corridor of Meridian and so there were people that were affected."
Edwards' office is looking into the group that posted the flyers.
"’How organized they are, whether they’ll come back, those are things we’re still working on," said Edwards. "And we don’t want to incite any kind of fear or assume that there’s a growing movement of hate in East Boston. I don’t believe there is, but I want to make sur that people understand there’s an even bigger, larger community of folks who love diversity who are proud of who we are."
© 2019 Cox Media Group.