The Somerville Police Employee’s Association wrote an open letter to Mayor Joseph Curtatone Tuesday, alerting his office that its members are “deeply troubled” that the city continues to display a “Black Lives Matter” banner over the main entrance of City Hall.
The letter, asking that the banner be removed, states that one reading “All Lives Matter” would be more appropriate.
“It is as 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,” the letter reads. “The Association is opposed to the misuse of excessive force, including deadly force, as are the well-intentioned members of the BLM movement. However, it is clear that fringe elements of that movement, and other protest movements, are provoked to indiscriminate violence against police officers in their name.
"Indeed, the removal of that banner and the placement of a banner stating ‘ALL LIVES MATTER’ would reflect appropriate concerns that police officers everywhere, as they do in Somerville, use deadly force only when necessary to protect the public or themselves from substantial harm, while simultaneously condemning the reprehensible murder of innocent police officers.”
The letter cites the attack in Dallas that left five officers killed and seven wounded, saying the sniper was “linked” to the movement. Another officer in Minnesota experienced broken vertebrae when a concrete block was dropped on his head by a Black Lives Matter protester, the letter said, while officers in New York heard chants like “What do we want? Dead cops. When do we want it? Now.”
The letter also defends the Baltimore police officers acquitted in the death of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody after breaking his neck in a transport van.
Many prominent activists from the Black Lives Matter movement, including DeRay Mckesson, have condemned violence against police and reiterated their call for non-violent protests. The police association’s president, Michael McGrath, who signed the letter, and Vice President Alan Monaco did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The banner was raised last August, with the help of Black Lives Matter Cambridge, according to a Boston Globe report at the time. Then, the seven-term mayor said it represented “a very clear statement we are making to the community that we recognize that structural racism exists in our society; it exists in our public and private institutions.”
"My unwavering support for our police officers does not and cannot preempt our commitment to addressing systemic racism in our nation," Curtatone said in an emailed statement. "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."
Both banners will remain hanging, Curtatone said.
"I’ve made very clear to our officers that we should be thankful for—and reinforce—what we have here in Somerville: a safer community thanks to the highest quality policing by a force dedicated to community policing, de-escalation, proper use of force, and anti-bias awareness," the mayor concluded.
"Peaceful protest to end violence and injustice stands at the core of our nation’s values and our democracy and we will continue our peaceful protest via the banner. Violence is never justified, and that is the message that both of our banners— for Black Lives Matter and for the slain officers—are intended to make."