Union City officials remove 'White Lives Matter' banner from intersection

A sign many consider to be offensive and hateful was found Saturday morning in Union City.

It was discovered around 9 a.m. by a city employee who quickly took the banner down and contacted police.

It was hanging in a public area across the street from the popular Union Landing shopping center.

The homemade banner emblazoned with the words "White Lives Matter" was hanging on city property at the busy intersection of Dyer and Smith Streets.

In a city where people of color dwarf the 25% white population, the sign touched a nerve for some.

"That’s not cool. That’s not really appreciated. I don’t understand it," said Jalonnie Price of Union City. 

"I see it’s another person’s opinion, you know, that’s all. That’s their opinion and a lot of things are being said to stir people up," said Union City resident Mary Samarron.

Ironically, the mayor heard about the banner during a virtual retreat with the Human Relations Commission, where one of the topics was concern over national divisions becoming local.

The mayor says she was angered because the banner doesn’t reflect the community’s inclusiveness and because of the wider context.

"I thought about this incident in relation to what’s going on in the country recently, the insurrection at our national capital," said Mayor Carol Dutra-Vernaci.  "This to me was an extension of that."

According to the Anti-Defamation League, the phrase "White Lives Matter" originated as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

It has since been adopted by white supremacists groups.

The civil rights organization, The Southern Poverty Law Center, also says the phrase is the name of a neo-nazi hate group founded in 2015.

So, it’s more than words that have people upset about seeing such a sign in their city. 

It’s also the timing in the wake of the violent insurrection at the Capitol and the upcoming holiday celebrating a man who devoted his life to fighting hate.

"It’s certainly very insensitive and because of the context, the insurrection of our national capital, as well as this is the weekend where we celebrate and honor Martin Luther King jr. and his life," said the mayor.

According to the City Manager, even though the banner was displayed on city property without a permit, police told her no crime has been committed and there will be no investigation.