A city in Massachusetts has refused to remove a Black Lives Matter banner from City Hall at the request of the local police union.
The Somerville Police Employee’s Association published a letter on Tuesday addressed to Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone asking for the banner to be removed and replaced with an “All Lives Matter” banner.
The banner features the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter and has been hanging from City Hall since August 2015.
“It is inconceivable to us as it is demoralizing that our city would propagate its support for this movement while standing silent over the seemingly daily protest assassinations of innocent police officers around the country,” said Michael McGrath, the union’s president.
The police union's request comes after several protests nationwide held in response to the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two black men who were fatally shot by police in separate incidents in July. Following Sterling and Castile's death were the deaths of five police officers in Dallas during a protest, who were targeted for being white by a gunman.
Three more police officers were killed on Sunday in Baton Rouge, La., the same city where Sterling died.
Somerville Police Chief David Fallon answered questions and made a brief statement in front of Somerville City Hall Thursday morning. He said that if the mayor believes the banner allows community members to feel safer and engaged with the police department, then he was “100% behind it.”
“We support the city’s initiatives,” Fallon said.
“My unwavering support for our police officers does not and cannot preempt our commitment addressing systemic racism in our nation,” Curtatone said in a statement responding to the police union’s letter. “The City of Somerville stands against all violence and all injustice, which is why a Black Lives Matter banner hangs at City Hall and why a banner in honor of the slain officers is hanging at Somerville Police Headquarters where it would provide the most moral support to our officers—both on my order.”
Curtatone said he has made it clear to Somerville officers that the city should be thankful for and reinforce its safe community because of “the highest quality policing by a force dedicated to community policing, de-escalation, proper use of force, and anti-bias awareness.”
In Fallon’s statement, he said the mayor has always been a “staunch supporter” of the police department as well as a supporter of human rights.
He said he wants to sit down with the mayor, the union president and members of the police department to have a “serious and effective” discussion regarding the banner.
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