By Amanda Kaplowitz ’19 & Bailey Blaikie ’19
The Unitarian Church is displaying a “Black Lives Matter” banner for the third time after previous vandalizations on Aug. 23 and again on Sept. 24. The church is located on 10 Lyons Plains Road in Westport.
The first banner that hung by the entrance to the church was ripped down and stolen in the middle of the night during the summer. This banner had previously been displayed without issue since Oct. 9 2016.
“They put up the sign to make a statement and people taking the sign down really shows how the sign was needed,” Kate Miller ’19 said.
David Vita, the Director of Social Justice at The Unitarian Church, explained that the banner’s original purpose was in response to multiple killings of black men by police. The church hung the banner in hope that it would spark conversation amongst the community.
This was “an act of political vandalism,” since it “….was a very targeted attack on our freedom of speech, on our freedom of expression and on our desire to be able to engage the community in conversation about this very important issue,” Vita said. Due to this, the church planned a rededication on Sep. 19, in which a second banner was hung. Five days later, this second banner also disappeared.
“Every time the banner is vandalized it fortifies our resolve to replace it and underscores the very need for its existence,” Reverend Dr. John Morehouse said.
However, some believe the vandalization instead demonstrates the community’s persistence and defiance. “I think it says that [Westporters] are very firm in their beliefs,” Luke Welch ’19 said. “If we don’t want something up then we can take it down.”
Although many are against the banner and agree with the vandalism, there are others who believe this is an act of cruelty. “We urge our community to be respectful of the opinions and their right to express them, even if they may differ from their own,” First Selectman Jim Marpe said. “Hatred and bigotry are not welcome here.”
Vita mentioned that he believes this act is not necessarily about the individuals, but rather about the act itself which he thinks represents hatred “in this very polarized society that we live in.”
Despite these acts, the church will “not be deterred by this,” and “can’t be silent about this anymore,” Vita said. The Unitarian Church prides itself on being a diverse and welcoming religious community that is open to people of all backgrounds and beliefs and will continue with this mindset.