On July 7, a Black Lives Matter sign made by the Martha’s Vineyard chapter of Black Lives Matter (MVBLM) was found defaced on private property near Chilmark library. Chilmark Police Chief Jonathan Klaren said an investigation is currently underway to find the suspect. Officer John McCarron was the one who initially went to the site of the incident, after receiving the call Wednesday morning.
Amy Cody, a member of MVBLM, was one of those who found the defaced sign. Cody said she believes the vandalism occurred on the night of July 6, since the owners found the sign defaced on July 7. Cody informed the Times of the situation in a letter to the editor.
The sign was placed on private property with permission from the owner. It was an open invitation for people to join MVBLM at weekly Sunday morning vigils at the Chilmark library lawn. MVBLM has been doing the kneeling vigils since last spring, changing locations depending on the number of people and the seasons. The kneelings are 9 minutes and 29 seconds, the amount of time Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was on George Floyd’s neck. On the sign welcoming all, the perpetrator wrote “disrespectful political rhetoric.” The words “Biden” and “fraud” were written, alongside “CCP” (Chinese Communist Party) in the middle of the sign.
This is the first incident of this kind this year, but it is not the first time MVBLM signs were targeted. Last year, signs on the same property, and a banner sign reading, “Only you and I can stop racism,” were stolen.
Cody said If the perpetrator wanted to send their own message, they should have put up their own sign. “No matter what they put on the sign, what they’re doing is they’re negating and diminishing and trying to erase the message of what it is,” said Cody. “The fact that you’re [perpetrator is] choosing our sign, which comes from our hearts and our goal of bringing attention to Black Lives Matter through our kneeling vigils, and you’re using our sign to deface and get your message across, is not OK.”
The issues of race and racism are persistent, and Cody said attention must continue to be brought to them. “I really hope that we can turn this negative experience of having our sign defaced and the spirit that might be behind that on this Island into a positive energy and into an action statement that we are rising above it and we are going to do our activism, no matter what,” said Cody. MVBLM will continue its activism, and put up signs where permitted. Examples include the kneeling vigils and an event on July 31 called “Disrupt Death Row: Art & Justice” to help Tennessee death row inmate Pervis Payne, whom MVBLM and the Innocence Project said is innocent, get exonerated.
Klaren said his department has shared information with other Island police departments to see if similar cases have occurred, and for help in finding the perpetrator. He hopes the public will inform the police if they know anything about the incident.
Currently, there are no witnesses to the crime. “We don’t have a lot to go on,” said Klaren.