Activists who oppose Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson held a rolling protest through the streets of New Bedford and Dartmouth on Thursday.
More than 30 cars decorated with signs demanding that Hodgson resign and alleging that he sympathizes with white supremacy drove past the jails he operates.
The group Bristol County for Correctional Justice, which organized the event, opposes the sheriff on several counts, including his participation in a federal program to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
Members also criticized what they say is poor treatment of people in jail.
LaSella Hall, president of the New Bedford branch of the NAACP, said the sheriff’s necktie that drew public attention this week for its similarity to the Confederate flag is emblematic of larger issues.
“Racism and white supremacy has to go, and that's exactly what the damn tie stands for,” he said. “Hodgson knows that. We know that.”
He said people of color stand in solidarity not only against the sheriff, but also “all the Tom Hodgsons that are out there.”
Hodgson denies any sympathy with white supremacy. But he makes no apologies for the tie, which he says is patriotic in red, white, and blue. An archived version of his official website from 2003 shows him wearing a red tie with blue diagonal stripes containing white stars.
Cynthia Cummings, a retired college administrator, joined the caravan of cars.
“I would like to see someone run against him so that we could get him out of office,” she said. “I think it's important that the community take a stand, because he is not the kind of person that we want as a leader within our community.”
The group held a simultaneous protest on foot outside the federal building in downtown New Bedford.
After the caravan drove past, members of Bristol County for Correctional Justice addressed the crowd with a bullhorn.
Lindsay Aldworth said they chose the federal building to highlight Hodgson’s cooperation with immigration authorities and President Trump. The sheriff appeared outside the White House with Trump on Tuesday.
“Why was he there on our dime?” she said. “He is the head of his election campaign in Massachusetts. That’s why he was there on our dime, to support the reelection of Donald Trump and everything that he stands for.”
Jonathan Darling, a spokesman for Hodsgon, confirmed that the sheriff paid for the trip with taxpayer money, but he said the same was true during the Obama administration. He said the activists had no problem with those trips, nor would they have objected to such trips if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency in 2016.
Hodgson has previously said the activists who oppose him are politically motivated.
At the close of the demonstration on Thursday, protestors marched to the location of the Black Lives Matter protests in New Bedford to join them in solidarity.