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Jamaica Plain church to replace stolen ‘Black Lives Matter’ banner

The Black Lives Matter banner in Jamaica Plain was vandalized, and then stolen from the First Baptist Church. Ashlee Wiest-Laird/First Baptist Church of Jamaica Plain

A church in Jamaica Plain on Sunday will reinstall a “Black Lives Matter” banner after the parish’s original sign was first vandalized, and later stolen. The event will mark the second time within a week that a community in the Boston area replaced such a sign because of damage.

Members of the First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain plan to gather on Centre Street as they place the new message on the church’s front lawn.

Ashlee Wiest-Laird, the church’s pastor, said the first banner was erected by congregants who held a vigil following the shooting death of nine people in a Charleston, S.C., church this summer.

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The message stayed up until September, when a person walking by the parish, whom the church caught on surveillance video, ripped it from the wooden stakes and poles that held it in place.

Wiest-Laird said she later found the banner, which was crumpled and stained with coffee, in a trash barrel nearby. She then put it back up.

“We used a lot of staples this time, from a staple gun,” she said. But it didn’t help.

Earlier this month, someone returned to the church and again took down the banner — wood frame and all.

“The sign disappeared — all of it. The wood frame, the stakes, the whole thing,” Wiest-Laird said. “We looked at the footage from our camera, and this guy came up, picked up the whole thing, and walked off with it.” The church has since purchased two more identical signs, and has scheduled a “re-installation” event, open to the public, for Sunday.

Like the original, the banner will include the words “Black Lives Matter,” a nod to the national grass-roots movement was born from the deaths of black people during confrontations with police.

The sign will also read, “Of course all lives matter . . . God loves each and everyone . . . however, given the continuing injustice and violence in our society that is disproportionately faced by people of color we must proclaim Black Lives Matter.”

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The sign goes on to say, “Individual bigotry and structural racism has to end.”

“It has an explanation on it addressing that ‘all lives matter,’” Wiest-Laird said. “But I think [the vandalism] is a clear attempt by an individual — or multiple individuals — to silence the message that we are trying to put out there.”

A banner outside of the First Parish Unitarian Universalist church in Arlington recently suffered a similar fate, after someone spray-painted the sign and then tore it from the ground, bending the frame that supported the message.

A rededication and installation of a new banner took place at the Arlington church on Tuesday. Parishioners said around 80 people attended the event.


Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.