‘This is what we are facing’: Worcester city councilor says her home was vandalized


Etel Haxhiaj said someone threw a baseball at her home, and that her political lawn signs were vandalized.

Political lawn signs in the yard of Worcester District 5 City Councilor Etel Haxhiaj were allegedly vandalized Friday evening. Etel Haxhiaj

A progressive Worcester city councilor says her home was vandalized Friday evening when a baseball was thrown at her house and her political lawn signs were thrown about her yard.

District 5 Councilor Etel Haxhiaj says the incident is just another example of the “constant harassment” she has been facing for years.

Haxhiaj described the incident in a Facebook post on Friday.

“While I was having dinner tonight, someone violently threw a baseball at my house, attempting to break the window in my living room. When we went out, we found all my lawn signs thrown on the grass,” she wrote.

Worcester District 5 City Councilor Etel Haxhiaj says her home was vandalized Friday evening.

Haxhiaj posted a picture of the lawn signs on social media, showing signs for several different candidates strewn about the grass. “This is what we are facing,” she wrote.

The city councilor said Sunday night that she and her partner felt a strong vibration go through the house, as if a rock had hit the porch. When they went outside to investigate, they didn’t see anyone but found the baseball beneath the porch.

Haxhiaj wrote on social media that she alerted the city manager and police to the incident, and that the latter is investigating. Worcester police did not respond to a request for comment on the incident Sunday night.

Neither the city councilor nor her neighbors have security cameras, so there’s no video footage of the incident, Haxhiaj said. There didn’t seem to be any damage to her house, she said.

The Boston Globe reported that another Worcester city councilor, Republican Donna Colorio, recently said she had eggs thrown at her car and someone wrote “racist” on one of her political signs in the city.

‘Constant harassment’ against Haxhiaj

On Facebook, Haxhiaj said she’s felt “increasingly unsafe.” She said she’s faced “constant harassment” since she began running for office, but that it’s increased in the last few months.

One example the city councilor gave was an incident earlier this month during which, she says, a man stepped out from a group of people campaigning for a Worcester School Committee candidate to film her in front of her house.

“This violent political targeting is a sign of fear. Fear that seeks to intimidate,” she wrote on Facebook. “I’ve had to have discussions with my children about safety, too. None of us, regardless of where we stand in our beliefs, deserve this.”

According to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Haxhiaj is the city’s first Albanian-born and Muslim councilor. The newspaper describes her as being “outspoken in her progressive politics.” She’s also been open about living undocumented in Greece as a teen.

Haxhiaj says her politics and background have caused her to face backlash and harassment online.

Earlier this summer, the Worcester Telegram reported, a former District 5 city councilor used Facebook to spread false rumors that Haxhiaj had received a donation from a relative of a man convicted of killing a police officer.

Additionally, at least one conservative Worcester Facebook page frequently makes negative posts about the city councilor, and Haxhiaj said online commenters frequently call for her to release her naturalization papers.

“There’s just been a theme and a current, a torrent, of hate-filled rhetoric that has just been nonstop, and I believe this has contributed and culminated in [Friday’s] incident,” she said.

Haxhiaj said she’s thankful for the support she’s received from her community in the wake of the incident. She said she posted about it because she wanted to shine a light on the kind of harassment minority politicians can face.

“I don’t feel that I’m alone. I am not entirely sure why the intensity has been so rabid in my case, but it’s felt very personally triggering,” she said. “I left my country because of social and political upheaval. I grew up in an authoritarian regime where folks suffered as a result of speaking their truth.”

Running for reelection

Haxhiaj, who’s been vocal on issues such as ending homeless encampment sweeps and taking action on climate change, is in the process of running for a second term as the District 5 city councilor. Her district includes the westernmost parts of Worcester.

The city councilor finished the preliminary election earlier this month as the frontrunner by a significant margin, garnering over 54% of the vote. In November, she will face three-time world boxing champion Jose Antonio Rivera, who came in second place with nearly 39% of the vote.

On Saturday, Rivera denounced the vandalism incident on Facebook.

“The cowardly act targeting Etel Haxhiaj represents the worst of human nature. This type of behavior has no place in Worcester and certainly not during a political campaign,” he wrote. “I offer my support to Councilor Haxhiaj and the strongest rejection of any type of violence, harassment and intimidation of any candidate for office. Worcester is better than this.”