Defaced BLM sign causes concern

A vandalized Black Lives Matter sign that had been on Route 7A between Copake and Ancram. Courtesy of Hate-Watch Report

COPAKE — A defaced Black Lives Matter sign was posted near Copake and Ancram to instead read “White Lives Matter.”

The Black Lives Matter sign, which had been painted over with new lettering, had been reported along Route 7A on the road between Copake and Ancram.

Hate-Watch Report, a local tool and website for reporting and receiving news about late or extremist groups and informing the public about them and any activity they have in the area received a report and photo of the sign through their website from a local resident.

“I think it’s unfortunate,” Ancram Town Supervisor Art Bassin said. “It’s certainly nothing that anyone around here would endorse. Unfortunately, it’s a sign that’s gotten attention in society with everything going on, but it’s really very unfortunate.”

Copake Town Supervisor Jeanne Mettler received a call about the sign a couple of days ago, she said.

“I am very disturbed whenever I hear that anyone’s signs have been defaced or stolen,” Mettler said. “As our country struggles to overcome racism and achieve racial equality, I am particularly disturbed to hear that a BLM sign has been defaced or worse, appropriated for a white supremacist message.”

Hate-Watch Report said the sign had been painted over with white paint, which was painted over with the word “white” after it had dried and was nailed up on the road.

“The person who had filed the report was new to me, they hadn’t been a subscriber before,” community activist Michael Richardson said.

The group White Lives Matter is a white supremacists group which was formed in 2015 in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The Black Lives Matter movement began after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager killed in Florida in July 2013.

The movement became more widely known after two high-profile deaths in 2014 of unarmed African-American men, Eric Garner in Staten Island and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

“These days with social media, people become affiliated or associated with groups that are not necessarily in the area,” Richardson said. “It’s very possible that there is a local actor, who has been on the web, and identifies with WLM, and they saw this sign and decided to deface it. Not only defaced it, but the report says they defaced it and then they went and they tacked it up again.”

People in this day and age have access to organizations that are not necessarily based here, Richardson said.

“In terrorist organizations they are called ‘lone wolves’,” Richardson said. “So they are just out there acting on their own, but they’re using the examples of other groups.”

There have been no other White Lives Matter signs reported that Richardson is aware of. There was a previous incident where someone had a Black Lives Matter sign taken from their yard and burned, Richardson said.

In that incident it had been a neighbor who had burned the sign, Richardson said. The sign’s owner confronted the neighbor, who burned it. The neighbor later apologized for burning it.

Richardson said there are also examples of political candidate signs being stolen or vandalized in most election years.

“There’s been sign theft, but this is the first time I know somebody actually altered a sign to deliver a message.”

The slogan “White Lives Matter” has been used in flyers and protests by white supremacist groups in several states, especially members of the Texas-based Aryan Renaissance Society, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The slogan was used by other white supremacist groups including the Ku Klux Klan by 2016.

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(1) comment

Hate-Watch Report

Much gratitude to the Register Star - and reporter Natasha Vaughn - for disseminating this important information to the broader community. Long live the Free Press!!!

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