Members of a congregation called the police after a second “Black Lives Matter” sign was vandalized Tuesday afternoon, about one and a half weeks after it received media attention for the same thing.
The congregation’s general minister said the Unitarian Universalist congregation of River Road in Bethesda decided to contact the press Tuesday because the staff and ministers think that the act concerns the general public.
The congregation reached out to media contacts “because we feel that public vandalism on our property is an issue that should concern everyone,” the Rev. Louise Green, minister for congregational life said. “When houses of worship are vandalized for their beliefs their statements, I believe it is an assault that concerns the public at large.”
The congregation has two ministers. Now each of the ministers has witnessed a sign being vandalized, Green said. Nancy Ladd, senior minister for the congregation and also chief of staff, was present to the congregation during the time of the other defacing, Green said.
Once Unitarian Universalist found out about the second defacing, staff first called the police to report the sign’s alteration as vandalism, Ana Lim, congregational minister for the church said.
The sign was scheduled to remain in place until September 3 because after the first “Black Lives Matter” sign was taken down for 24 hours and the zoning commission allowed the congregation’s “clock to reset” on the temporary sign, Lim said.
Like the vandalism Unitarian Universalist received two weeks ago, the word “black” was removed from the sign outside the sanctuary.
The incident occurred so close to the time of the previous sign alteration that the order for a new sign had not arrived, Lim said.
The sign outside Unitarian Universalist is the “traveling sign” which the racial justice task force would bring to advocacy events, Green said.
Following the first incident, a minister and the staff gave attention to the needs of the congregation, Lim said.
“We had some meetings to make sure that the congregation was feeling ok about it,” Lim said.
Lim said the congregation knows the sign was intact at 1 p.m. because Green was outside the building at that time.
Once again, the sign was defaced during the day. Green said someone altered the sign between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., Green said.
“I know it was fine about 1p.m. because I want out to lunch at that time. (‘Black’) was missing when I came back,” Green said.
Lim said the congregation was not surprised at the act, but that she feels sad about what happened.
“There’s sadness there’s disappointment, there’s anger, there’s you know, all kinds of emotions,” Lim said. “There’s a little bit of ‘I’m not surprised’ kind of attitude.”
Green said the congregation put the sign up as part of a larger movement.
“We see this not as an individual act for River Road but part of a denominational response,” Green said.
Green said “Black Lives Matter” a Unitarian Universalist social justice action and the congregation is participating in that movement.
Green said the congregation wants to communicate a message about racism in institutions in society.
The effort is nationwide, Green said. The effort is to keep attention on the multiple systems that have institutionalized racism, Green said.
Green said “Black Lives Matter” probably started after mass incarceration of African Americans, the school to prison pipeline and the incidence of police brutality.
Green said the reason for the word “Black” in the sign demonstrates a concern held by the congregation.
“The impact that these things are having is disproportionate on the African-American community,” Green said.