Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Ohio: UCC Church's "Black Lives Matter" Sign Stolen // Investigating Police Officer Called #BLM a Terrorist Group

I read a commentary earlier today from Rev. Scott Elliot, the pastor at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Mount Vernon, OH. He shared that the church's "Black Lives Matter" banner from stolen from the church grounds on February 12, 2016.

His office called the local police to report the theft. He was subsequently astonished when the police officer told him that the #BLM movement is "officially connected to terrorism by the government" and that the message's terrorist nature likely upset the community:
The officer was polite and appeared to me compassionate, thoughtful and articulate. But what he wanted me to know was very disturbing. He advised me that "Black Lives Matter" was the name of a movement officially connected to terrorism by the government. The officer indicated that the terrorist nature of the movement was probably why people in town would be upset about the sign and act out to take it down.

Since I had never heard of that type of connection, I asked the officer what agency had listed "Black Lives Matter" as a terrorist group or as having terrorist connections. After a bit of probing, he used his cell phone to research a website on the BLM movement and as he scrolled through it, I pointed out the word terrorism or terrorist was nowhere to be found. The officer then apologized for claiming it was a listed terrorist movement, but added he thought Homeland Security (or NSA I am not sure which) was considering listing it as a terrorist organization.

In fairness, I understood the officer to note in the course of our conversation that he agreed with the message of our banner and that he was not a racist, and opposed racism.

What was disturbing to me was that a civil rights movement that our church and the denomination are involved in would be considered a terrorist movement by the local police. It is, of course, highly inappropriate and offensive to have labeled it as such.
I've witnessed an ongoing discussion recently on the Gay Christian Network that questioned whether or not "all lives matter" or it's just black lives that matter. This was my response:
Of course all live matter.

“Black Lives Matter” sprang from generations of systemic abuses and is an effort to push back on those abuses and advocate for organizational accountability. The whole “All Lives Matter” response really tries to negate the message of this movement.

We’ve seen the police literally strangle a black man to death on camera over alleged sales of loose cigarettes and get away with it. We’ve seen a black man talking on a cell phone and carrying a toy gun in an open carry state shot to death in a Walmart and get away with it. We’ve seen a 12-year-old boy shot to death within two seconds of interacting with the police. They lied about the incident and about his actions until video was released that completely contradicted their statements. They got away with it and now the city is sending the boy’s family to collections over an unpaid ambulance bill related to the incident. We’ve seen black men shot to death for walking down the street or tackled for standing outside a hotel or arrested for sitting on a bench and waiting for their child to get out of school and get away with it. Even in Ferguson, people don’t trust the police rationale for Michael Brown’s death because they’ve been preyed on horribly by their local government when it comes to excessive police interactions that were used as revenue generators for the city. They’re finally getting some justice in that area.

Yes, I can identify exceptions to these types of situations — either situations where black people were out of control and there was likely no other option or situations where police/government abused non-black people — often disabled individuals.

I have a black teenage son. And I’ve had numerous conversations about interacting with the police. The whole Trevon situation really shook him up. He jokes about wearing hoodies in the wrong neighborhoods — but the humor is really a coping mechanism for anxiety. He doesn’t trust the police. Frankly, I’m fearful of police interactions with him also.

We had a situation several months back where the local police got flack for arresting a black teen for trespass. Video came out of the officer tackling the teen and shackling him. The city later ruled the response justified — but also revised their policy for these types of interactions. They also released about 10 minutes of video of the mostly black teens who were making the others uncomfortable. It was ten minutes of teens hanging out in a rec center and joking around. Someone called the police and the police told the kids to leave. The one boy briefly (1-5 seconds) interacted with the officer and then turned to leave. He was then tackled and arrested. I wrote a blog about it and have embedded video if you think I’m exaggerating.

I don’t see this happening to white teens who hang out in public settings created for teen recreation and I know a lot of white teens.

So yes, all lives matter. But BLM doesn’t negate those lives. It’s responding to the lives that seemingly don’t matter to the system.
I later had to clarify that BLM isn't about blacks being better than anyone else. Instead, it's about black people advocating for their rights and their protection. I then referred people to the official BLM website.

The former pastor at my church also had his BLM yard-signs stolen from his home last year. I'm not aware if the police told him that BLM is a terrorist group or not.

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