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The Archbishop of Wellington has condemned a sign reading 'All lives matter' that was displayed outside a Catholic church over the weekend. Cultural experts and anti-racism advocates labelled the sign racist, ill-timed and disrespectful, while the Race Relations Commissioner called it "provocative". It comes after a weekend of rallies in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin, where thousands of people turned up to show their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protesters in the United States.
There has also been growing unrest in the US at the weekend, after a black man, Rayshard Brooks, was shot dead by police at a Wendy's drive-thru in Atlanta , after he attempted to run from them with one of the officer's tasers. In a statement, Dew said the sign was put up without the knowledge of the parish priest while he was away on leave. It should not have been put there. A church should be a safe space for everyone, a place where everyone feels welcome without being confronted with politicised material that some could find unwelcoming or offensive.
Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said the church did not seem to have been aware of the controversy surrounding the "all lives matter" slogan. The intention really was highlighting the humanity of all people, so that's the explanation I have been given. She said she could not tell a church what they could and could not do, but she expected the sign would be removed. Pacific lecturer and native Hawaiian Emalani Case said the church might not have received the same level of backlash six months ago.
We can't actually say 'all lives matter' until black lives matter, because black lives unfortunately often get left out of the 'all'. Case spoke at the Black Lives Matter march in Wellington yesterday about keeping momentum for racial equality going even if the social media storm died down.
Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon said it would be "provocotive" to post the phrase on a public noticeboard. The phrase is therefore associated with racial division and intolerance," Foon said. However, it is equally important for people to be thoughtful about how they express themselves, including how their expression impacts others. The Black Lives Matter movement began in after African-American teen Trayvon Martin was fatally shot by a man who was later acquitted.