Thursday, April 21, 2016

'Black Lives Matter' Banner Defaced Again at St. Philip's Church
Black Lives Matter sign

Community members showed their support Thursday after a "Black Lives Matter" sign was defaced along Bestgate Road outside of Annapolis.

Lauren LoricchioContact Reporter

A "Black Lives Matter" banner in front of St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Annapolis was defaced again early Thursday morning, the latest in a string of incidents at the church on Bestgate Road.

The word "black" was covered with black spray paint. The message now reads "Lives Matter."

The sign, which also says "join us in the conversation," aims to start a conversation about racism, said St. Philip's rector the Rev. Randy Callender.

This is the seventh sign the church has put up since the first was erected in December, Callender said.

County police said since Oct.16, there have been 12 signs reported stolen, and four have been damaged at St. Philip's and three other Annapolis area churches: Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, Annapolis Friends Meeting House and United Church of Christ Annapolis in Edgewater.

One was also stolen from the Unitarian Universalist Church on March 29, county police said.

"It shows someone would rather vandalize the sign than have a conversation," Callender said.

A police officer noticed the word "black" had been spray painted black while doing a routine check of the area at 6:30 a.m. Thursday, said county police spokeswoman Cpl. Jacklyn Davis.

In December, police charged Chari Raye McLean, 56, of Annapolis, with destruction of property after a sign at St. Philip's was removed not more than 24 hours after it had been blessed in a ceremony at the church. The charge is a misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

When reached by phone Thursday, McLean said though she was waving an American flag in the area Thursday morning, she did not destroy the banner.

County police spokesman Lt. Ryan Frashure said anyone found destroying or removing the signs could face charges of destruction of property, theft or trespassing.

Frashure said he believes continued theft and vandalism of the signs stems from people who misunderstand their message.

Black Lives Matter is a national movement against racism and police violence. It began with the high-profile deaths of young black men, including Freddie Gray, who died while in Baltimore police custody.

"People truly don't understand what the Black Lives Matter message means," Frashure said. "Their message is not that only black lives matter. ... They do believe that all lives matter."

Despite continuous theft and damage to the signs, Callender is not upset.

"It's created a great conversation in the community," he said.

Callender will discuss with his members whether they would like to replace the sign, or if they will choose a different route to facilitate a discussion about racism. Church members have also considered holding programs on the topic of racism, he said.

Anyone with information about this incident or others is asked to contact the Anne Arundel County Police Southern District at 410-222-1960.

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