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Auburn church's BLM sign vandalized, GoFundMe launched for new one
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Auburn church's BLM sign vandalized, GoFundMe launched for new one

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Days after it was stolen and retrieved, the "Black Lives Matter" sign in front of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Auburn has been vandalized.

The word "Black" in the sign's message — "All lives can't matter until Black Lives Matter" — was discovered missing on Monday morning.

Church member Kim Patch said the vandalism must have taken place Sunday night since people saw the sign intact that day.

"It's hurtful. But it also reinforces the idea that this sign is needed," said Patch, who noted that she was speaking personally and not on the church's behalf.

"The fact that the word 'Black' had to be taken off the sign is testament to the racism," Patch continued. "'Black' had to be taken out in order for all lives to matter? What are they trying to say?"

Within hours of the vandalism's discovery, Patch launched a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe to support the church. It has a goal of $500, and had raised more than $1,690 by 5 p.m. The church's leadership will ultimately decide how to spend the money, Patch said, but she hopes the show of community support will encourage them to buy a new sign.

In the meantime, the church's pastor, the Rev. Patrick David Heery, spent some of his Monday making a poster that says "Black" and duct-taping it to the sign to replace the missing piece.

Heery added that the church has decided it will replace the sign.

"I am so amazed by the success of the GoFundMe page," he said. "That was created by Kim on our her own, as a kindness to the church and a statement of solidarity. The church hadn't even had a chance yet to discuss next steps, so while it wasn't created by the church, we are so grateful for it! And so grateful for Kim!"

Patch believes few churches would post a sign like "Black Lives Matter" in the first place, fearing they could offend people. But she said that commitment to social justice makes her proud to be a member of Westminster, which was founded by an abolitionist pastor and hosted the wedding of Harriet Tubman.

"Westminster takes the stance that we need to lift up every marginalized community in our community," Patch said.

The sign was posted in the church's front lawn a few weeks ago. On July 2, the zip ties holding it were cut and the sign was stolen by an intoxicated white man in his 50s, Heery wrote in a Facebook post. After two friends of the church called the police, the sign was retrieved about 30 minutes later. Heery did not press charges.

Auburn Police Department Chief Shawn Butler said Heery has contacted the department about the vandalism, but will again decline to pursue charges if the person responsible is found. Butler added that the vandalism does not appear to have been captured by any surveillance cameras. Anyone with information is asked to contact officer Bethney Guzalak at (315) 253-3231.

Patch said she's unaware of any other incidents with the sign. But she's afraid its vandalism won't be the last one.

"I have a feeling we're going to have to replace that sign over and over and over again," she said. "But I want to keep on fighting this fight because racism runs deep in Auburn, as we've seen, and we need to keep on fighting for the right thing. As people keep saying, 'not in Harriet's hometown.'"

Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.

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I edit The Citizen's features section, Lake Life, and weekly entertainment guide, Go. I've also been writing for The Citizen and auburnpub.com since 2006, covering arts and culture, business, food and drink, and more.

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