On Sunday, January 20, the Universalist Unitarian Community Church of Santa Monica congregation rededicated a new Black Lives Matter/Side with Love banner to replace the one that was vandalized last spring. (The “Black Lives Matter” portion had been slashed off.) During coffee hour, we celebrated with cakes decorated with the banners’ dual messages.
As we were about to post a celebratory article on the Wednesday after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we learned that the newly installed banner had been cut down and stolen sometime on Tuesday night. According to James Witker, Sarah Mae Harper, and Deirdre Dietel, writing on behalf of UUSM’s Faith in Action Committee, “A police report has been filed, and we are discerning next steps. We appreciate your support in the wake of this hateful act against our community. We expected that the new banner would face the threat of further vandalism, but were deeply disappointed that it happened after less than three days.” Several other UU congregations around the country that have taken up the clarion call of Black Lives Matter have reported vandalism.
Santa Monica City leaders, including Chief of Police Cynthia Renaud, expressed sadness at the repeat vandalism. “As much as we would all like to live in a hate-free zone, a city of 93,000 that flows daily with rivers of people from all over the world can no more dam intolerance at its borders than America can erect walls to keep out the world,” Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole wrote in an email. “I would not let the furtive actions of an unknown party or parties take away from Santa Monica’s community spirit of love and tolerance.”
The Rev. Greg Ward is pictured above standing in front of the newly hung banner on Sunday, January 20, sending a message of unity and committing UUSM to Side with Love and supporting Black Lives across America. The banner was re-dedicated at the conclusion of both services that day with the assembled congregation looking on.
This image shows the tie-down cables remaining after the sign was stolen. “We are a predominantly white church in a fairly affluent area of West LA. We are steeped in privilege. We are beginning to understand what that means. And the responsibilities that go with it,” wrote Rev. Greg in a pastoral letter to our community. He went on to recount stories of oppression and complacency along with instances, here and now, that bend towards justice.
“But mostly, I will lift up that all these stories are the same story. They have the same plot and the same conflict – they are just waiting for a protagonist to appear. And the protagonist is not a person or a people. It is a conscience and some consciousness. And, finally,” he wrote, “the $250 it will cost for a new banner and a re-dedication – even if we have to do it monthly – is a small price to pay for a conscience.”
This is a developing story. Stay tuned.