UPDATED, Aug. 17: Arlington police have responded to, and are actively investigating, four recent incidents of malicious vandalism across Arlington aimed at Black Lives Matter signs. Five days later, the numbers of cases had increased to 13.
All four incidents were reported the morning of Monday, Aug. 10, and originated at the First Parish Unitarian Universalist of Arlington, Cavalry Church and at two private residences in East Arlington. A First Parish banner has been the target in the past, first in 2015.
In an email Aug. 14, the Human Rights Commission noted 13 incidents of malicious destruction, theft, and vandalization of Black Lives Matters banners and lawn signs around Arlington over the past several weeks, four at churches and schools.
At the First Parish, the Black Lives Matter banner was altered to read “ALL Lives Matter.” At the Cavalry Church, two 'Black Lives Matter signs and one mural were destroyed. At one private residence a KKK sticker was affixed to a 'Black Lives Matter lawn sign, and at another the same KKK sticker was stuck to a 'Hate Has no Home Here lawn sign. In both cases, the sticker depicts a Klansman wearing a white robe and mask on a horse with a torch.
"We are thoroughly investigating these incidents," said Chief Julie Flaherty in an Aug. 11 town news release, “The hurtful messages far outweigh the physical damage done and underscore the work that needs to be done to make Arlington a truly supportive and welcoming town.”
While these incidents took place in the last couple days, over the course of the last few weeks, a number of Black Lives Matter signs have been stolen, egged and vandalized, including the banner at the high school.
In separate incidents not reported as part of the town release, a Black Lives Matter banner was recently removed from a fence at the Peirce School. A Washington Street resident found a different BLM sign stuffed in a grate on Brattle Street, retrieved it and posted it in his front yard, he told a Facebook group this week.
"The Arlington Human Rights Commission is appalled at this pattern of racist destruction, defacement, and vandalism," said Sharon Grossman and Kristen Bauer, Arlington Human Rights Commission cochairs. “The commission has formed a working group to explore responses and ways to support the community."
"The board is extremely disappointed to see these acts of vandalism,” said John Hurd, Arlington Select Board chair. “It is a painful reminder that racism exists in Arlington and reinforces the town’s commitment to further promote diversity, equity and inclusion in Town. We appreciate the work the Arlington Police Department investigating this matter.”
“These acts of vandalism and attacks on free speech are unacceptable,” said Sandy Pooler, acting town manager while Adam Chapdelaine is on vacation. “The Town supports Black Lives Matter and all those who express those sentiments.”
Arlington police are actively investigating these incidents.
In its Aug. 14 statement, the rights commission "condemns these hateful, racist and potentially criminal acts of vandalism. These banners and signs reflect the values of the Town of Arlington, and all who strive toward advancing racial equity and justice, and show support for our black community.
"Continued vandalism causes harm to people of color who reside, work, and pass through Arlington and their allies, who are showing support and educating others about anti-racist actions. We must persist and work to become a safer, more supportive, and inclusive town that recognizes the message that Black Lives Matters. The AHRC is deeply committed to working with all members of our community to enhance understanding and expand dialogue to help create a more welcoming Arlington.
Things you can do to help:
Contact the Arlington Police by calling 781-643-1212, or anonymously via Tip411, if you or anyone you know has information about these acts.
- A new working group within the commission to further address this issue or our Events Working Group to work on a webinar that will teach skills about how to have difficult conversations that will help people learn to talk about their differences, rather than take harmful action. You can sign up via our website here;
- The Arlington Human Rights Commission monthly meetings Arlington Human Rights Commission Calendar
- The Arlington Human Rights Commission newsletter.
Learn about the Black Lives Matter movement by exploring resources on the Arlington Human Rights Commission website: Black Lives Matter Resources.
Contribute to the AHRC Gift Fund so that allies can support the purchase and replacement of signs/banners (donation information will be sent in our next newsletter).
Order Black Lives Matters Signs on our website soon.
This news announcement was published Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. The town news release was written by Joan Roman. Bob Sprague added background. It was updated, to add why Pooler is acting town manager. It was updated Aug. 15, to add further cases, as well as Aug. 17, to add statement.
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