Mar. 14, 2012
LAWRENCE, Mass. — About 300 people gathered at Pembroke Park on the Merrimack River on Tuesday, chanting "Law-rence! Law-rence!" to protest what they considered a lack of respect from the local media.
Their immediate grievance was an article published in the new Boston Magazine titled “City of the Damned.” The piece details Lawrence’s various problems — violent crime, a high dropout rate, the controversial tenure of mayor William Lantigua — and dubs the city “the most godforsaken place in Massachusetts.”
For youth organizer Christopher Benitez, who emceed the rally, that religious language struck a nerve. "Because I’m a man of faith, being told that our city is 'godforsaken' was painful to hear. But at the end of the day we all face prosecution or persecution, and that’s just what it is," he said.
> > READ: A Lawrence city councilor responds to the magazine story
Benitez said he’s tired of seeing Lawrence painted as a place where only bad things happen. He claims there are plenty of good stories to tell — but that the media ignores them.
For instance, he said, "The community has decided to come together and renovate a lot of these old mills to build affordable housing and create beautification and at the same time preserve its history. I think that’s been a beautiful initiative and it’s a beautiful story."
Boston Magazine editor John Wolfson said the article wasn’t intended as a commentary on the residents of Lawrence. Instead, he said, it was about what he called a “corrupt political system” that has repeatedly stifled efforts to make the city better.
In November 2011, WGBH News looked at some of the changes brewing in Lawrence as part of our "Where We Live" series. Read the story.