In a display of unity against online hate speech, the Elmwood Park Borough Council recently convened to discuss and denounce bigotry, harassment, and discrimination, particularly targeting the LGBTQ+ community. The discussion was ignited by the circulation of an offensive post on a local social media page, “Elmwood Park Speaks,” resulting in a resolution R-291-23 aimed at condemning platforms that enable such discriminatory behavior.
The offensive post was authored by Gigi Hayes, directed at Councilman Francesco Fasolo, and involved derogatory remarks with implications of pedophilia. Fasolo found support from his fellow council members, who were united in their rejection of such hate speech.
The social media page where the post was shared is administered by Pamela Troisi, a 2022 Republican candidate for Elmwood Park Council who ran against Fasolo.
Council members engaged in speeches, condemning these comments and apologizing to Fasolo on behalf of the community. They pledged to promote inclusivity, acceptance, and respect. This sentiment was echoed throughout the council, with members affirming their rights to express their opinions against such egregious comments and holding community leaders responsible for the actions of their associates. A unanimous sentiment emerged emphasizing that remarks trivializing pedophilia should not be treated as political talking points.
The council’s resolution, R-291-23, was clear in its intent – to denounce hate speech based on race, ethnicity, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and other protected characteristics. The resolution upheld Elmwood Park’s commitment to promoting diversity, providing equitable opportunities, and rejecting hate and bias, and called upon residents to adopt these values.
The role of social media in the spread of hate speech sparked a debate, with council members both decrying its misuse and advocating for positive and respectful dialogue. The council criticized the administrators of “Elmwood Park Speaks” for not removing hateful content and questioned the suitability of such people to lead the community.
Amidst the discussions, Councilman Fasolo stood strong, reassuring the LGBTQ+ community of their place and voice in Elmwood Park. “Those comments do not stand for the majority of the residents of Elmwood Park,” he declared, “we are loving people, we are a strong community, we are a welcoming community.”
A public speaking segment triggered a contentious debate over free speech, with allegations of hate speech being defended as First Amendment rights by Hayes. These assertions were met with strong rebukes from council members, who argued that hate speech does not fall under protected speech.
While the council meeting was largely dominated by the discussion on hate speech, other items of note included Councilman Golabeck’s positive update about federal funding for a local street lighting project and Councilwoman Pellegrine’s enthusiasm about future community events.