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Vandalism doesn't deter Shadyside church from plans for 'Black Lives Matter' sign

Ben Schmitt
| Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016, 1:12 p.m.
A 'Black Live Matter' sign in front of the First Unitarian Church in Shadyside show signs of vandalism, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
A 'Black Live Matter' sign in front of the First Unitarian Church in Shadyside show signs of vandalism, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016.
A 'Black Live Matter' sign in front of the First Unitarian Church in Shadyside show signs of vandalism, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
A 'Black Live Matter' sign in front of the First Unitarian Church in Shadyside show signs of vandalism, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016.

The vandalism of a “Black Lives Matter” banner in front of a Shadyside Unitarian church will not deter the membership from hanging a similar, permanent sign from its bell tower, its minister said Wednesday.

The Rev. David Herndon of First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh at Morewood and Ellsworth avenues said he found the vandalized sign on church property Wednesday morning. The word “Black” was crossed out, and the words “Blue” and “more” added with two shades of spray paint. The defaced sign then read: “Blue Lives Matter More.”

“I didn't feel anger so much as I felt unsettled and troubled,” Herndon told the Tribune-Review. “The word ‘More' adds a specific, disturbing note to it.”

He said the banner was placed on the church lawn Friday as a temporary sign until a permanent, 8-by-4-foot sign is hung.

“Our congregation has maintained a longtime commitment to racial justice,” Herndon said. “We are supportive of this movement.”

A Pittsburgh police officer went to the church and took a report Wednesday afternoon, Public Safety spokeswoman Sonya e_SNbSToler said. There are no suspects, she said.

Herndon remained committed to hanging the permanent sign. “We all need to draw on our reserves of spiritual courage,” he said.

Church member Chuck Staresinic of Lawrenceville questioned the motives of the person responsible.

“Black Lives Matter is three-word statement of love and support for members of our community,” he said. “As a movement, BLM is committed to justice, peace and equality. What are the vandals who defaced this sign committed to? It looks like they are committed to white supremacy.”

Church brass posted a photo of the vandalized sign on its Facebook page and received a great deal of supportive feedback, although there was some dissension.

One dissenter wrote: “Well it really shouldn't be up anyway. That organization is nothing but a bunch of thugs invoking violence on police officers. ALL LIVES MATTER!!!!”

He was met with a chorus of angry comments.

“Please answer my question below. Do you agree with defacement of private property because you disagree with the statement?” a woman responded.

On its Facebook page, the church wrote that the core of its mission is “to promote love, reason and freedom in religion, to foster lifelong spiritual growth, and to act for social justice. We encourage seekers of all faiths, nationalities, races, genders, ages, abilities and sexual orientations to visit our congregation.”

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991 or bschmitt@tribweb.com.

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