After Video Shows Officer Removing Signs, Takoma Park Lifts Sign Restriction Ordinance

In response to a video circulating on Instagram showing a Takoma Park police officer removing Black Lives Matter signs on lamp posts, City Manager Suzanne Ludlow announced she’s taken emergency action to suspend rules about sign posting.

In light of the protests surrounding racism and police brutality, Ludlow is now encouraging residents to post welcoming signs around the city, unless they “are in an unsafe location such as covering a traffic sign or blocking sightlines at an intersection.”

In a statement shared on social media Tuesday morning, Ludlow acknowledged the hurt residents are feeling after the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis:

We are reeling, hurting, and angry. I am urging Takoma Park residents to put signs up across the City. Let’s show the world and each other what we are hoping for and working for, how we are grieving and raging and loving, and working to make this world a just and welcoming place for all.

I am suspending the rules against posting signs in the City right of way. For safety reasons, we will move signs if they are in an unsafe location such as covering a traffic sign or blocking sightlines at an intersection.

Let’s put up the posters, draw with chalk on the sidewalks and show who we are!

In the Instagram video, published early Tuesday, a person (who is recording the video) is asking an officer – who is shown taking down and discarding signs – why he is doing so. The two go back and forth on whether taking down the signs is the right thing to do and whether the timing of the action is appropriate given what is going on around the country right now.

City of Takoma Park Police Chief Antonio DeVaul issued two statements about the exchange Tuesday morning. The first statement was released at 8:55 a.m., saying, “We have addressed this incident with the involved officer and will be discussing it with all of our staff. As I have stated numerous times, we want to be part of the solution, not the problem.”

However, at noon, Devaul released a new statement, condemning the officer’s “dismissive tone” in the video and understanding the conversation was about “more than the removal of signs.”

DeVaul said: “The officer who responded to remove the signs last night did so as the result of a call from a resident who felt that the language in certain signs displayed would incite violence. Only the involved signs were removed.  Other signs supporting the Black Lives Matter movement were left in place. This still does not excuse the dismissive tone and actions of the officer. That is being addressed.”

DeVaul tweeted that he and Takoma Park Mayor Kate Steward will be posting signs and discussing the impact of Floyd’s death from 1:30 to 2 p.m. Tuesday with community members.

Full Statement from Takoma Park Police Chief DeVaul

Here’s a look at the full statement from Chief DeVaul at 8:55 a.m.

We are aware of the video posted on social media of an interaction between one of our officers removing a sign calling for action from a light pole. Posting signs on light poles and other structures is illegal in Takoma Park. However, during this time of mourning and reflection, we support creating more spaces for residents to express their feelings and raise awareness with signs, posters, and other means. Understanding this need, City Manager Suzanne Ludlow will be putting out an emergency order overriding the posting of sign restriction. We encourage residents to post signs throughout the city.

We have addressed this incident with the involved officer and will be discussing it with all of our staff. As I have stated numerous times, we want to be part of the solution, not the problem. The removal of signs is not part of the solution and for that, I apologize. We all understand that tensions are running high across the country and in Takoma Park. Let’s find a way to learn from this incident and take steps to bring us together.

Here’s a full look at DeVaul’s followup statement at noon:

We are reeling, hurting, and angry. I am urging Takoma Park residents to put signs up across the City. Let’s show the world and each other what we are hoping for and working for, how we are grieving and raging and loving, and working to make this world a just and welcoming place for all.

I am suspending the rules against posting signs in the City right of way. For safety reasons, we will move signs if they are in an unsafe location such as covering a traffic sign or blocking sightlines at an intersection.

Let’s put up the posters, draw with chalk on the sidewalks and show who we are!

Related Post:

Takoma Park Mayor, Police Chief Condemn Cop’s ‘Dismissive’ Interaction with Activist

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Deirdre Byrne

About Deirdre Byrne

Deirdre Byrne is a social media coordinator for Montgomery Community Media. She can be reached at dbyrne@mymcmedia.org or on twitter at @DeirdreByrneMCM.

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