When Barbara Rushmore’s “Black Lives Matter” sign was stolen from in front of her house on Commercial Street in Provincetown’s East End around July 4th, she assumed that someone from out of town had done it. She replaced the sign, and it has remained there all summer.
Then, last Friday, she received an unsigned, handwritten letter in the mail.
It read: “Dear Black lives matter. Look on line, read what that sign of your’s [sic] stands for. If you keep it up, your [sic] telling every one in this town its OK if they come here and Break in to all the store’s [sic] and steal what they want. Please take your sign down. I know you know better.”
Rushmore, who is disabled — “I don’t see too many people,” she said this week — was philosophical about the letter.
“Where did the letter writer get the wrong ideas?” she asked. “Who knows? I’m 95 years old, and I marched into Selma, Ala. with Dr. Martin Luther King. I want the writer to know they’re wrong, and our dark-skinned Provincetowners aren’t stealing or breaking into stores.”
Two other instances of vandalism of Black Lives Matter signs took place last week in Wellfleet, the police reported.
Both signs, one on West Road and one on Old Truro Road, were defaced with black spray paint.
One sign had been put up on Thursday, Aug. 20, by Carolyn Tacke. She discovered the vandalism the next day.
“It must have been done Thursday night,” Tacke said this week. “It felt like somebody hit me in the chest. It made me heartsick.”
Wellfleet Police Chief Michael Hurley issued a press release about the vandalism on Monday night, in which he wrote, “The Wellfleet Police Department has zero tolerance for the destruction of any property and are currently investigating each case.” Hurley asked that anyone with information about the incidents contact Sgt. Geraldine LaPense at 508-349-3702 or by emailing [email protected].
Tacke left the spray-painted sign in place, and on Saturday, when she came back from a trip to the transfer station, she found that the sign had been repainted, the letters “BLM” restored in yellow on top of the black. A note was attached to the repainted sign.
“To our neighbor who made this Black Lives Matter sign,” it read. “I am sorry that a racist fascist person spray painted over your sign. I am sorry this type of hate exists in our town of Wellfleet…. I took the liberty of painting back the yellow BLM letters…. You can’t erase love!”
It was signed, “Sincerely, Your Neighbor.” Tacke said she has no idea who left the message.
Rushmore said she thought it was important for people to know there is prejudice here.
“We have a big job to do,” she said. “I can’t tell you how ingrained it is into every white person that they’re superior. It’s going to take a lot of things happening. But I see great progress being made. The fact that we’re talking about it — I have to give credit to the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s a different world than I was born into, and I’m looking toward there being even more improvement.”
Truro Police Chief Jamie Calise told the Independent this week that he had received no reports of stolen or defaced signs since June 1. Provincetown Chief Jim Golden and Eastham Chief Adam Bohannon did not respond to email messages about sign vandalism in those towns.