Manager joins Mass. leaders seeking end to systemic racism

Despite controversy over whether the Black Lives Matter banner hanging at Town Hall since June 8 should remain, be taken down or moved elsewhere, it will stay up for now, as the Select Board unanimously approved on Monday, July 20.

Selectboard logo, May 20, 2019

“We’ll work with community stakeholders, such as the Human Rights Commission, to devise a plan. Acknowledging that Black Lives Matter is important,” said Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine.

“The Black Lives Matter movement is still in the minds of Arlington residents. I look forward to hearing back from the town manager in a few months on a long-range plan for hanging banners, so we can have a clear-cut plan for putting up any banner in this location,” said Board Chair John Hurd.

Board Vice Chair Joe Curro Jr. said, “It’s incumbent upon us to continue living the values of Black Lives Matter. The correspondence I received overwhelmingly favors keeping the banner up for the conceivable future. It makes sense for us to keep the banner up for foreseeable future, and wait for the future plan.”

Board member Len Diggins said, “I want to see the Black Lives Matter movement succeed, and support the town manager’s decision.”

Board member Diane Mahon also agreed with the town manager’s suggested course of action. She added: “However, I want to make sure that all sides of the Black Lives Matter movement don’t get too fixated on the banner. I’d like to see a majority of people of color consulted on this and other issues. I’m heartened that the town manager, Human Rights Commission and Jillian Harvey, Arlington’s diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator, are reaching out to people of color.”

DeCourcey added, “Dialogue is still ongoing in both the community and the nation, so this is not the time to take down the banner. I look forward to further conversations.”

Residents speak out

Several community members expressed support for continuing to hang the banner, and asked the town to do even more, during the meeting’s citizen open forum.

“I want to keep the banner up until the black community says it’s no longer necessary and they feel safe to take it down,” said Lynette Culverhouse. “Hopefully, we can overcome our egos and biases, and to hear every voice in Arlington, even when those voices are hard to hear. I’m a member of Arlington Fights Racism, and am concerned that AFR was not included in planning the town’s BLM programs.”

Elizabeth Dray concurred. “When you include community stakeholders in these discussions, also include diversity task groups and AFR.”

Sheri Baron, chair of the Human Rights Response Coordination Team, wanted to ensure that the banner and sentiment behind it reaches the audience it ought to reach.

“Who’s the banner for? Why aren’t we asking people of color where they want the banner to hang? We’re not the audience. The people who need to feel safe and secure are, and to know that our town is behind them and doing what it takes to make this better. I’d like to see a plan for how this banner is intended to make them feel,” said Baron.

Katharine Connolly addressed the Lt. Pedrini situation. He is the Arlington police officer who wrote and published racist sentiments in October 2018.

“I want every human being to have the opportunity to live here safely. How can anyone feel safe when Pedrini published hate-filled racist writings? He was not fired immediately, which is a stain on our town. The restorative-justice process was not transparent, steps were skipped and only select individuals in the community were involved. This is not representative of our community or our values.”

Connolly also asked that during the Aug. 4 town conversation on racism and reforms, where Lt. Pedrini will address the community, that the restorative-justice process is not declared a success, and to allow community members to speak directly to Pedrini.

Further reporting about the Select Board meeting will be reported separately.

June 10, 2020: Select Board endorses Black Lives Matter proclamation

This news summary, by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, was published Wednesday, July 22, 2020.