“Black Lives Matter” sign outside Concord church vandalized again

  • "Black Lives Matter" sign outside Unitarian Universalist church on Pleasant Street spray-painted twice in two weeks. —Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 7/9/2020 3:01:02 PM

Lyn Marshall didn’t notice the silver spray paint right away.

It was only after the live stream of Sunday’s worship service began that someone mentioned more vandalism outside the Unitarian Universalist church on Pleasant Street in Concord.

Marshall, one of the church ministers, looked outside and discovered that the sign out front bearing the words “Black Lives Matter” had been vandalized yet again – this time, with the word “ALL” sprayed in silver paint across the sign’s original message, a sentiment that Marshall views as counterproductive to the one her congregation is trying to send.

Just two weeks earlier the same sign was hit with bright blue paint spelling “BLUE.”

Rather than a source of anger or disappointment, Marshall views the two instances of vandalism as a chance to speak more openly about issues of race and racism in the community.

“I see it as an opportunity for both the congregation and the Concord community to think more deeply about how racism manifests here,” she said. The Unitarian Universalist congregation played a role in the Love Your Neighbor campaign in 2011, after three refugees’ homes were vandalized in Concord, and many congregation members are active within various social justice movements, but Marshall believes the vandalism is an indicator her congregation can do more.

The first incident occurred either the evening of June 20 or in the early morning of June 21. The word “BLUE” was spray-painted over the sign, which faces Pleasant Street. Blue Lives Matter is a pro-police slogan founded after the killings of two New York City police officers in 2014 and is often considered a counter-movement to Black Lives Matter, which addresses police brutality and systemic racism.

After the sign was vandalized the first time, community members reached out to Marshall and her congregation to ask how they could help. Marshall was waiting on a response from the company who built the sign on how best to clean the plexiglass to avoid damaging it when an unknown neighbor came to the church and cleaned it.

When the church first added the Black Lives Matter message to their sign on June 4, Marshall didn’t consider it to be a political statement. For her and her congregation, it represents a statement of their faith and their “commitment to racial justice.” However, the vandalism proves there’s more work needed in the community, she said.

“This is a sign that we’re not done yet, and that there are still people who feel threatened and afraid by the idea that Black lives are going to get attention,” Marshall said.

Concord Deputy Police Chief John Thomas says regardless of the message of the sign or the graffiti, the vandalism at Unitarian Universalist is inexcusable.

“It doesn’t matter what the sign says – it’s still vandalism,” Thomas said. “People destroying other people’s property to try to have their voice heard is not the way to do it.”

The Concord Police Department is investigating both incidents, but Thomas says that it will be hard to find the person responsible unless the department receives a tip with more information.

Marshall is planning to hold a series of conversations with her congregation to discuss a response to the incidents, as well as broader topics such as systemic racism and larger-scale change. “We will brainstorm ways we can use this moment to deepen our own understanding of how racism manifests itself, how we respond, and how to broaden our engagement with the wider community around racial justice,” she wrote in an email to her congregation Tuesday. “This is a new opportunity to respond to hate with love, and to be leaders in transforming hearts, minds, and public policies and practices. Let’s rise to this occasion with grace, courage, determination, and always, always, love.”

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