Updated 6:40 pm
Rockland Trust has reinstated Black Lives Matter signs in the windows of its downtown Edgartown location. The bank kicked a hornet’s nest recently when it opted to take down a Black Lives Matter sign following a local complaint. Representatives of the bank have said the sign was damaged or “sun damaged,” and needed to go. The branch manager also said such signage naturally rotates.
The Black Lives Matter sign in question was in the window of the Main Street branch, according to Jane Chittick, the person who complained. Chittick opted to share her email complaint with The Times recently. Following the complaint, an email exchange ensued between Chittick, bank CEO Chris Oddleifson, and branch manager Delos (“Dee”) Lander.
At one point, Lander appears to have capitulated to Chittick’s request. “Jane, I have discussed this matter with Tilma [Johnson, regional manager] and my managers and we have decided to remove the signs,” he wrote. “We will be using more traditional messaging from our marketing team that demonstrates Rockland’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Thanks, Dee”
Lander declined to answer follow-up questions, and referred inquiry to Rockland Trust headquarters. A representative from the public relations firm Solomon, McCown, and Cence confirmed the signage had been in the Main Street branch. She also said the signage would be put back up July 2.
“So they’re putting it back up? Maybe they’re going to make a better-looking one,” Chittick said Thursday. “I’ve got a lot of phone calls at home. They think I was right.”
The decision has generated more than 100 comments on social media and in The Times online comments.
In a statement issued July 1, Oddleifson expressed strong support for Black Lives Matter.
“Rockland Trust fervently stands with the Black Lives Matter movement messages of justice, fairness, and equality,” he stated. “Decisions regarding signage should be made at the corporate level. The branch was not instructed to take this signage down, and the Rockland Trust marketing team has developed a new sign to replace the damaged sign with the same messaging.”
Asked what the Edgartown Board of Trade’s stance was on the signage, vice president Julia Tarka referred questions to the board. Tarka noted her business, Rosewater Market, supports Black Lives Matter, as she wrote in a Letter to the Editor of The MV Times this week. A support sign has been in the window of Rosewater Market since at least February, she said.
In an email to The Times, Board of Trade executive director Erin Ready addressed the sign issue. “The Edgartown Board of Trade is the principal voice for business in the town of Edgartown. It is dedicated to fostering an economic climate that enhances and improves the quality of life in the community, and it will work to accomplish these tasks while protecting the historic character of the town, the natural beauty, and its sense of community,” she wrote. “Rockland Trust is a valued member of the Edgartown Board of Trade. The Edgartown Board of Trade supports its members, and knows Rockland Trust to be deeply committed to and involved in the community and town. We support our members sharing the ways they contribute to our community and the causes they value.”
Updated to include reinstated signs and additional comments from Julia Tarka. –Ed.