Blaine city manager addresses removal of Black Lives Matter signs at H Street plaza

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The city of Blaine removed signs against systemic racism from the H Street Plaza in downtown Blaine on June 19, as posting signs on public property is not permitted by city code, city manager Michael Jones wrote in a memo to the public.

On June 25, Jones wrote a memo to the public to explain the signs removal.

The signs included messages in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“The city is committed to protect people’s right of expression and to treat all individuals equally. As a result, the city will not (and cannot) edit the content of a sign, regardless of the message. This means if we leave positive messages, or messages we agree with, we also have to leave negative messages and messages we disagree with,” the memo reads.

In a letter addressed to the city manager on July 1, Elaine Alpert and Bill Marsh, who say in their letter they moved to Blaine a year ago, share their thoughts on a phone conversation they had with Jones about the removal of signs and suggest steps for him to take going forward.

They ask him to consider writing an article in The Northern Light to explain the removal of signs, designate a space for the remaining signs, and others, to be put on display, and to invite relevant community stakeholders to provide input on such decisions made in the future.

Jones said most of the removed signs had been disposed of except for two he saved in his office. He said the signs read: “We want a better world for our kids. It’s better if all the fathers and mothers live to see it” and “Grandpa protested Racism. Mom protested police brutality. I still protest.”

“I kept those signs to help remind me of the importance of the issue,” Jones said.

Alpert and Marsh wrote in their letter that they got the idea for a “public expression zone” from recollections of seeing such zones in Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco, but they could not find any evidence of them online.

Jones said at a July 13 city council meeting that the city would not pursue a public expression zone, as that would put the city in the position of having to moderate it, which could expose the city to legal issues.

“I couldn’t agree with you more,” said councilmember Mary Lou Steward, at the meeting. “All you have to do is look at problems Facebook and everyone else is in when they try to look at what they can do with their accounts and I think the city needs to stay out of that.”

Alpert and Marsh did express the hope they felt in moving to Blaine following their conversation with Jones.

“Finally, our phone conversation afforded us an opportunity to express what we believe to be shared sentiments about the importance of taking careful, thoughtful, and proactive steps toward active anti-racism in Blaine. This portion of our conversation, in particular, helped reinforce our very positive feelings about making the decision to move to Blaine,” Alpert and Marsh wrote.

The memo and letter can be found in the event details of the city council meeting on July 13 on the city of Blaine website.

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