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Suspect in banner defacing caught, faces restorative justice

the Rev. Marta Flanagan, left, watches as new banner is installed at First Parish on Oct. 27.The "ALL," on the ground, had covered up "BLACK" on the First Parish banner on Thanksgiving Day. The new sign was hit a third time. More photos here >> A suspect has been caught.

UPDATED, Dec. 4: The Arlington Police Department has identified a suspect allegedly responsible for one recent defacing of the "black lives matter" banner at the First Parish Unitarian Church in Arlington.

On Thanksgiving afternoon, someone placed a sign reading "ALL" over the word "BLACK" on the banner. A parishioner discovered the result the next day.

Police said Thursday, Dec. 3, that a witness reported seeing a pickup truck pull up to the church, that a male got out of the truck and walked up to the sign. The witness got a complete license plate number and gave it to police, leading investigators to a 23-year-old Arlington man, who was not named.

Police spoke to the man, who admitted to putting the "ALL" sign over the banner.

Instead of arresting and prosecuting the suspect, the Police Department, after consulting with Communities for Restorative Justice and church leadership, has decided to seek a community-based restorative justice solution.

Under that, the suspect will be required to make restitution to the church and perform community service to avoid a criminal charge of destruction of a place of worship.

"I want to commend the work of our investigators, the witness who came forward, and our terrific partners in the First Parish Unitarian Church for their work in response to this misinformed act," Chief Fred Ryan said in a news release. "This is the perfect case for a restorative justice solution. The suspect in this case will be required to give back to the community that was wronged by his actions. Ultimately, the goal of restorative justice is to repair the breach between the offender and the community."

Church leadership agrees.

"These kinds of misguided acts call for conversation and learning, not punishment," said Lori Kenschaft, clerk of the First Parish. "We look forward to talking with this individual, understanding why he did what he did, and being part of the restorative process."

Chief Ryan was recebntly named to the board of Communities for Restorative Justice. Read about it here >>
C4RJ is a nonprofit partnership of community members, and police departments that offers restorative justice in the wake of crime. Its aim is to provide a process by which victims are heard and understood, offenders take responsibility for harm, and where loved ones and community members offer support.

C4RJ is active in the communities of Acton, Arlington, Ayer, Bedford, Boxborough, Cambridge, Carlisle, Concord, Groton, Lexington, Littleton, Stow and Wellesley.

Dec. 4, 2015: Arlington Public News report

Nov. 28, 2015: Congregations join after latest defacings of First Parish banner

Oct. 28, 2015: 'Black lives matter' banner restored as other churches express support

Globe, Nov. 2: Jamaica Plain church replaces stolen banner

This report was published Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, and updated Dec. 4, to add a link.

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