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Black Lives Matter flag stolen from local school

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 11:39 PM EDT
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ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - Two days after the Essex Westford School Board opted to keep Black Lives Matter flags flying at their schools, the one at Hiawatha Elementary was cut down and stolen.

A letter sent out by the school said this isn’t the first time it’s happened. That’s why they keep extra flags on hand. As a result, the flag was replaced in just a few hours.

Police said the American flag was left on the ground.

“It could either be a misdemeanor or depending on value, it could be a felony,” said Sgt. John Dunn of the Essex Police Department.

Tuesday’s school board meeting, where they voted 6-3 to keep the flags up, was heated at times. Many people were not happy with the decision, saying they don’t want political statements being made by institutions funded by taxpayer dollars.

“With an incident of the Black Lives Matter flag matter being stolen or removed from the property, it could have a hate crime enhancement added to what the underlying charge would be of a larceny,” Dunn explained.

Ian VanKirk is an Essex Junction resident who lives near the Hiawatha Elementary School.

“We’re not too impressed somebody decided to that,” VanKirk said.

He tells us his child went to Hiawatha Elementary and is upset about what happened.

“The issue of racial inequality isn’t gone. It’s a problem that, frankly, the issue as a whole hasn’t dealt with over time,” VanKirk said.

Laura Taylor, also a parent of children in the Essex Westford School District, said disagreeing with the decision isn’t a reason to damage property.

“It sends the message, other than a person is willing to commit a crime to bring down a flag, there are pockets of the community that don’t respect the school board’s decision,” Taylor said. “This incident reinforces the fact there needs to be further discussion in our community about racial inequity.”

The Essex High School Social Union, the organization responsible for the flags being put up, sent WCAX News the following statement:

“Though we are disappointed in the votes of some of the board members and horrified and appalled by the crimes committed against the flag and our community at Hiawatha, ultimately we are grateful and resolved. We are grateful for the adults who stood by us, the community for lifting up our voices, and the school district for making the right decision and reaffirming that in this community, Black Lives Matter. We are resolved to realize the commitment to creating an anti racist community and fostering justice that the flag represents as it waves above us each morning. And we are thankful to our community- all of our community, for gathering under the flag, because everyone who showed up, even those who yelled at us, attacked us and tried to silence us, only ever showed us that justice and history are on our side, and encouraged us to make our voices heard even louder. With love and determination -the EHS Social Justice Union”

Anyone with information on this crime is asked to contact Essex Police.

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