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'Black Lives Matter' Sign At Somerville City Hall Causes Rift

A "Black Lives Matter" banner hangs at the main entrance of Somerville City Hall Thursday. (Steven Senne/AP)
A "Black Lives Matter" banner hangs at the main entrance of Somerville City Hall Thursday. (Steven Senne/AP)

Somerville's mayor has denied a request from the police union that a Black Lives Matter banner be removed from City Hall and replaced with one that says "All Lives Matter."

Somerville Police Employees Association President Michael McGrath wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Mayor Joseph Curtatone that officers are "deeply troubled" the current banner remains.

The letter said it's "inconceivable" and "demoralizing" that the banner — which has been above City Hall's main entrance for nearly a year — remains, given recent attacks on police across the country.

Curtatone denied the request, saying in a statement that his "unwavering support for our police officers does not and cannot preempt our commitment to addressing systemic racism in our nation."

He added that "a banner in honor of the slain officers is hanging at Somerville Police Headquarters where it would provide the most moral support to our officers."

On Thursday, the chief of Somerville's police stepped into the disagreement. Chief David Fallon said Curtatone has been a supporter of police — and human rights and efforts to end systemic racism.

Fallon said there needs to be dialogue with every member of the community, including black residents who feel they are being treated unfairly.

"It's not me to decide whether their fears are real or perceived," he said. "For me as the chief it's to say, 'Hey, listen, let's talk this out, let's work together. We want you as part of our community. Everybody.' "

With reporting by The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom

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