A billboard on Brainerd Road in Chattanooga that proclaims “Blue Lives Matter” and features the badges of the Chattanooga Police Department and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is causing some local controversy, according to GOPUSA.
Responses to the billboard are divided between those who appreciate the message as a gesture of gratitude to local law enforcement, and those who feel it is an affront to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Charlie Hunt at Lookout Advertising said his company created the advertisement and put it up on their digital billboard about three months ago as a way to honor police and counter negative publicity he’s seen surrounding law enforcement, notes GOPUSA. The police department and sheriff’s office did not pay for the billboard, nor did they even know about it beforehand.
“We did not want to divide anybody or anything, especially with this Black Lives Matter,” said Hunt. “All lives matter, and there is nothing racial about that.”
That seems reasonable, but Norman Williams begs to differ. The man who has organized efforts in Chattanooga urging gang members to stop the violence said that the sign felt like a personal attack from law enforcement. “It’s disrespectful,” he said. “All lives matter, but we’re the ones getting killed."
The thought that a positive message about law enforcement is "disrespectful" to the Black Lives Matter movement would be comical if it weren't so outrageous.
On Wednesday, Williams started receiving calls and social media comments about the billboard, many of them expressing violent anger:
“They wanted to tear it down, to burn it down, but I was like, we don’t need to take that approach. There are other ways.”
Sheriff Jim Hammond addressed the billboard in a statement:
“I feel it’s great that so many people across this country, including our own county, want to recognize our local law enforcement community and all first responders who put their lives on the line for our citizens every day."
For some reason, academics were asked to weigh in - as if their opinion matters, as if they have any special insight about the issue, and as if we don't already know where they stand on it.
Robert Durán, professor of criminology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, complained that the billboard “is diverting attention away from the problem of policing of the black community. It’s minimizing to trade one experience with the other when they are totally different.”
Lois Presser, associate head of the sociology department at UT, said that the billboard is co-opting the language of the Black Lives Matter movement but taking it out of context:
“[Black Lives Matters activists] are making a historical statement, savvy to the history of police and minorities in the United States. To say ‘all lives matter’ or ‘blue lives matter’ is to take the whole thing out of context.”
On the contrary, the statement "Blue Lives Matter" puts the "Black Lives Matter" movement into the proper context. It reminds people of the reality that cops are under siege every day, and it is a positive counterpoint to the rising tide of anti-police sentiment in this country, stoked by the Black Lives Matter movement and the Obama administration itself.