Black Lives Matter sign stolen from Reno church... again

Black Lives Matter sign vandalized at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Nevada

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Nevada will replace its 'Black Lives Matter' banner again. The sign has been stolen or vandalized eight times since it was first installed in August.

The Reverend Neal Anderson spoke to News 4 about the ongoing incidents. He said, "we as a religious community are disappointed that people would stoop to vandalizing and stealing from us."

Most recently, security cameras caught two men using box cutters to remove the sign from its frame late Wednesday night; but Anderson said the church has been dealing with vandalism since they first put the banner out.

"The day after we first installed our banner it was spray painted with the word 'white' lives matter over 'Black Lives Matter.'"

When the congregation replaced the first sign, someone stole it. Anderson said the church even held a re-dedication ceremony. More than 100 community and religious leaders signed the back of that banner to show solidarity.

But that didn't stop people from stealing and vandalizing the sign several more times. "We have had another sign vandalized with 'all' lives matter." Anderson said the congregation believes all lives matter, but they are hoping to make a stand for racial justice with the 'Black Lives Matter' banner.

The church took steps to try to deter people from stealing the banner. "We wanted to have something a little bit more sturdy and a little bit more aesthetically pleasing." They built a more permanent wood base and bolted the sign to the wood frame, but that didn't stop thieves from striking again.

Anderson said, "someone came by with box cutters and cut the sign out and took it away." The reverend said security cameras captured a blurry photo of two men stealing the banner at 10:53 p.m. on Wednesday night.

He said the church will not succumb to the thieves. They will replace the sign, yet again. "We will continue to display our banner as our religious conviction, as religious speech to the importance of the work we're engaged in for racial justice."

The reverend estimated each sign costs about $60, but several members of the congregation have already offered to pay for those signs in support of the 'Black Lives Matter' movement. "It's really heartening to know that folks will step up and say, 'Yeah, this is really important to me as a Unitarian Universalist and I want to continue this work and I'm going to put the sign up.'"

Anderson told News 4 he has filed a police report each time the banner has been stolen or vandalized, but he said the Reno Police Department has never contacted the church.

He also said he has reached out to community leaders, including Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve and Councilwoman Naomi Duerr, but he has not gotten a response from either of them.

This is not the first church where a similar crime has happened, though. Anderson said Temple Sinai, a Reform Jewish Congregation in Reno also had their 'Black Lives Matter' banner stolen.

Anderson said he hopes the 'Black Lives Matter' sign will spark a conversation about social injustice, something he said is important to his congregation. "We hope that the sign will lead to constructive dialogue; to engagement about the issues of racial justice."

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