In 2014, a historic episcopal church in Hartford, Connecticut, put up a “Black Lives Matter” banner on the fence of its property to stand in solidarity against social injustice. Since then, the sign has been vandalized on four separate occasions.
The most recent incident took place last week, reports NBC, when the word “black” was removed from the banner so it would read “lives matter.”
“You expect responses. You expect reactions,” said the Rev. Miguelina Howell, dean of Christ Church Cathedral of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. “When we say 'black lives matter' we are not negating that all lives matter. God created us all equal and black lives are not treated equal in this nation.”
According to Howell, her church has received positive responses to the banner, as well as negative ones where callers scream and accuse the church of being racist.
“The lives that are currently undermined and vulnerable are black lives, as we have seen in the tragedies that this country has experienced in the past year with the killing of black men by law enforcement," Howell told the Hartford Courant.
While leaders in the church hope the sign will not be defaced again, they are ready for that scenario. The church’s response to the defacement of the banner will remain consistent: they will replace it until the vandalism comes to an end.
“I have to admit it’s discouraging,” said Rev. Jay Cooke. “My courage comes out of the discouragement actually, to continue to witness to our faith.”
The Black Lives Matter social justice movement, which dates back to 2012, gained momentum in 2014 after Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown. Similar incidents around the country further propelled the movement, which spread quickly on social media with the use of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.