Boston's New Mayor Michelle Wu Bombarded With Racist Messages Over Vaccine Mandate

Boston's new mayor Michelle Wu revealed she has been inundated with "hateful messages" after announcing vaccine requirements that will go into effect in the city in January.

Wu, who was elected the city's first female and first Asian American mayor last month, told Boston Public Radio this week of the "constant calls associating me with the same hateful, racist, xenophobic language that the former president used in describing the virus and its origins and who was to blame."

Donald Trump's rhetoric, which included referring to COVID-19 as the "Chinese virus" and other similar terms, has been linked to a rise in anti-Asian attacks during the pandemic.

The new mandate was announced by Wu on Monday in response to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. It will require workers and customers at restaurants, gyms and many other indoor businesses in Boston to show proof of vaccination. They will need to show that they've received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine from January 15. By February 15, they will have to show they are fully vaccinated. Wu also announced a vaccine mandate for city employees using the same timeline.

The announcement sparked protests outside Boston City Hall this week, with some protesters chanting "shame on Wu."

Wu told the radio show that she could "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." But she added: "We won't be intimidated from doing the right thing."

Wu described protesters singing patriotic songs and chanting "U.S.A." to oppose vaccine mandates as "completely backwards."

It's "a clear message that 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," she said.

"That's based in misinformation, it's based in, I think at some level, hatred, and fear and confusion. But to have that presented as 'this is the patriotic way' and everyone else who says differently, the people of color who own restaurants who were standing with us, the newly-elected elected officials don't belong here, aren't part of this country and what we represent—that's completely backwards."

Wu also said that the city's 311 phone line has also been flooded with calls from people across the county "spewing incredibly hateful rhetoric." But she said she was determined to move forward with the mandate to protect businesses from dealing with it on their own.

"This is why we need to do it," she said. "For individual businesses to have to face this kind of hate is something that I am hoping when we have clear guidance across the board, that lifts that burden off of our organizations and entrepreneurs in our community."

Asked how it feels to have "this kind of hatred" directed at her, Wu told the radio show that it was "disappointing."

"In moments, it can be a little rattling," she said.

Wu went on to say that she is usually very closely attached to her devices and active on social media. But she's avoided it in recent days "because every time I open my phone, it's another dozen hateful messages, again from folks outside the city and all across the country who feel enraged at Boston taking a leadership role here," she said.

"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, Asian Americans in this moment through the pandemic. I mean, this is a very familiar experience, unfortunately."

Wu's office has been contacted for additional comment.

Michelle Wu is sworn in as mayor
Michelle Wu is sworn in as Boston's mayor by Judge Myong J. Joun on November 16, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. Scott Eisen/Getty Images