Arlington police are investigating after a Black Lives Matter banner hung on a fence outside the town’s high school on Massachusetts Avenue was found vandalized Thursday morning, officials said.
Around 9:30 a.m., officers responded to a report of vandalism at Arlington High School, according to a joint statement from Arlington Police Chief Julie Flaherty, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie, and Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine.
Upon arrival, officers spoke with a custodian who reported that a banner, which read “We Believe Black Lives Matter” and was hung on a construction fence, had been vandalized with spray paint, the statement said.
The custodian told police that the school removed the banner around 8:15 a.m.
“This act of vandalism not only damaged school property, but it sent a hurtful message to the entire community that contradicts the shared values the banner was meant to convey,” Flaherty said in the statement.
School district officials hung the banner on the fence earlier in the summer to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. The idea for the banner was sparked by talks among administrators, the school’s Black Student Union, and the school’s Anti-Racism Working Group, the statement said.
“We’re very disappointed that this banner was defaced as it was a way for students, teachers, and administrators to state a shared principle for the school. It is very painful to see it vandalized,” Bodie said in the statement. While police investigate, “we will prioritize repairing or replacing the banner so that it can continue to serve as a visible reminder of our commitment to community-building. ... This only reinforces the importance of our ongoing efforts to further promote diversity, equity and inclusion at APS.”
Others also condemned the vandalism.
Chapdelaine said in the statement, “For my part, I’d ask whoever did this to do two things. First, to think about their actions and consider how hurtful they are to people in our community. Next, I’d ask them to learn more about our nation’s history and the lasting presence and impacts of structural racism.”
“Vandalism like this is a painful reminder of how much work we must continue to do to become a safe, supportive, and inclusive town,” said Sharon Grossman, cochair of the Arlington Human Rights Commission, in the statement.
Anyone with information about the vandalism is asked to call Arlington police at 781-643-1212.
Matt Berg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mattberg33.