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Town will take down Black Lives Matter sign after Select Board agrees on new signage policy

The Black Lives Matter sign outside Brookline Town Hall. Photo by Sam Mintz
December 5, 2023

Brookline town officials will take down a Black Lives Matter sign in front of Town Hall after voting on a new public signage policy Tuesday.

The sign has stood in front of Town Hall since 2020, a response to the Black Lives Matter movement and protests over the murder of George Floyd.

But it’s time to take it down, said Select Board chairman Bernard Greene, who led the initial push to put the sign up three years ago. Greene, who is Black, said at a recent meeting that the town should consider making a “broader statement against hate.”

The sign “was put up at a time of really intense and traumatic incidents of police brutality with respect to Black individuals, most painfully illustrated by the murder of George Floyd,” Greene said.

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“I think, though, that the time when that sign was relevant and important has passed,” Greene said. “Today we’re faced with increasing incidents of anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, anti-LGBT rhetoric and attacks along with continued racist attacks by certain public officials against Black and Hispanic Americans, and their history and culture.”

The new policy on public signs (or “expressive outdoor fixtures” as the document calls them) is being enacted for “clarity” after a recent controversy over the town’s decision to take down posters of Israeli hostages which were placed on public property in Brookline.

Click to read a draft version of the Select Board’s new sign policy. The board voted on a final version with changes on Tuesday which is not yet available.

The policy states that only the Select Board can approve the placement of signs on town property, and that they have to express “views supported by the government of the Town of Brookline.” They cannot espouse support of political candidates or parties, advertising or religious messaging.

The section of the new policy which will result in the Black Lives Matter sign being removed is a clause that says that “fixtures authorized under this policy may stay in place for no longer than thirty days.”

Town Administrator Chas Carey told Brookline.News that the time limit is to “ensure that even if there’s no end date on an authorization for a sign, that there’s still a clear expectation that it can and will come down.”

Board member John VanScoyoc said that one of the essential points of the new signage policy is that “no message is permanent.”

Raul Fernandez, a former Select Board member and executive director of a nonprofit called Brookline for Racial Justice and Equity, said that taking the Black Lives Matter sign down doesn’t reflect on the town’s commitment to racial justice “any more than putting it up did.”

“The sign going down I don’t think will indicate a lack of attention to the issues of the Black community or communities in color at large in Brookline, because I don’t know that we’ve focused enough attention on them anyway with the sign up,” Fernandez said.