A police union in suburban Massachusetts is protesting a mayor’s refusal to remove a “Black Lives Matter” banner from the front of City Hall, even though the city leader has ordered to display a sign honoring slain police officers as well.
According to ABC News, about 50 members and supporters of the Somerville Police Employees Association rallied Thursday evening to demand that Mayor Joe Curtatone remove the “disrespectful” banner. The association represents over 1,500 officers in 26 communities throughout the city and said a public building like Somerville’s City Hall is “no place” for such political expressions.
The banner has been displayed at City Hall since August of last year, but the police union argues that it should be replaced with an “All Lives Matter” banner instead, CBS Boston reports.
“The Somerville Police Employees Association fully endorses the proposition that Black lives matter just as much as white, Asian, and Hispanic, and any others do,” the union wrote in a statement highlighting its grievances. “Similarly, we respect the rights of all American citizens, including those well-intentioned members of the BLM movement, to protest injustice.”
“At the same time, we strongly object to a public banner sponsored by the City that implicitly paints police officers as the killers of innocent citizens of color when there is no evidence whatsoever that the police officers in the City are in anyway using their police powers in a discriminatory or unlawful way,” it continued.
Despite the push back, Mayor Curatone, who is a white Democrat, refused to budge, vowing that the sign would stay up. He insisted that standing up for Black citizens and supporting the police aren’t mutually exclusive. Curatone also said the only way to tackle the dilemma was through an “open dialogue” about race relations.
In an effort to ease opposition to the banner, the mayor also displayed a sign honoring recently slain police officers at the city’s police headquarters. According to Boston’s WCVB, the additional banner hangs over the police headquarters entrance and reads, “In honor and remembrance,” with an image of the Dallas Police Department badge and a black band across it.
“My unwavering support for our police officers does not and cannot preempt our commitment to addressing systemic racism in our nation,” Curatone wrote in a statement of his own. “The City of Somerville stands against all violence and all injustice, which is why a Black Lives Matter banner hangs at City Hall and why a banner in honor of the slain officers is hanging at Somerville Police Headquarters where it would provide the most moral support to our officers—both on my order. Both banners will remain hanging.”
While union president Michael McGrath asserts that the union supports the “core goal” of the Black Lives Matter movement, he also said the BLM banner sends an “exclusionary message” that’s “disrespectful” to law enforcement officials. According to WCVB, many of the predominately white attendees at Thursday’s rally could be heard chanting “All lives matter!” and “Take it down!” Other demonstrators waved signs that read “Support you local police” and “Cops lives matter.”
The Massachusetts Municipal Police Coalition was also in attendance and helped organize the rally, the Boston Globe reports. Among the officers backing the union was McGrath’s girlfriend, an African-American detective who fears she’ll be demoted for supporting the association’s opposition to the banner. Mayor Curtatone called the notion “absurd,” according to the publication.
As the police rally went on, there was also a Black Lives Matter rally being held in Somerville’s Union Square area. Some of those protesters converged with police demonstrators as their rally ended, holding signs that said “I Agree with Joe,” in reference to the mayor, and “We Will Not Be Silent Until We End Police Violence,” the Boston Globe reports. Somerville resident Roy Pardi, 61, waved a Black Lives Matter sign in support of the banner.
“But that doesn’t mean I don’t support the police,” he said.