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Black Lives Matter Signs Slashed At Two Oak Park Churches

OAK PARK, Ill. (CBS) -- Vandals targeted Black Lives Matter signs at two Oak Park churches this weekend.

This comes days after a mural in the same near west suburb was defaced. Residents Sunday night said the actions do not represent the village as a whole.

As CBS 2's Steven Graves reported Sunday, the sign at St. Christopher's Episcopal Church, at 545 S. East Ave. in Oak Park, had been fixed by late Sunday afternoon.

The sign reads, "Black Lives Matter to God and Us."

"After George Floyd's murder, the board here decided that we needed to take a stance," said St. Christopher's Board Chairman Peter Walters.

Earlier Sunday, a cut mark was seen in the middle of the sign. Church members woke up Sunday morning to find it that way.

They originally thought it was wind damage, until they realized another church's Black Lives Matter sign about a mile away at the First United Methodist Church Oak Park, 324 N. Oak Park Ave., also had a large slash in it. The sign at the Methodist Church remains slashed and damaged Sunday. Tape was supposed to be holding it up, but it was sagging.

It is an act the church condemns, but plans to move on from.

"We'll follow Jesus' example and love our enemies," Walters said.

Walters, who fixed the sign Sunday, said he forgives the people who vandalized the sign.

"We decided not to inform the police department in Oak Park about this, but rather to simply inform the village board," Walters said. "We're not looking for punishment. We don't want to be punitive about it. We are certainly not supportive of this sort of action."

Graves asked Walters if he thought the vandalism was an attack on religion taking a stance on something like Black Lives Matter.

"Possibly so," Walters said, "although certainly, there's no religious context to the Black Lives Matter mural that was painted on the street."

Walters was referring to the defacing of a Black Lives Matter mural in Oak Park. Someone painted over the mural on Scoville Avenue to read "All lives matter."

That happened Wednesday, about two weeks after the mural was painted. It matches the same timeline as to when St. Christopher's Church originally put up the sign.

"I think it's connected to a lack of understanding about what Black Lives Matter stands for and what it means," said community activist Khari Reed. "All lives matter, but at this particular point in time, Black lives matter and we have to remind society that Black lives matter so we can stop the police brutality," Reed said.

Reed just held a Black Lives Matter rally some weeks ago.

"I'm not surprised," he said. "I think we do need some work in this community."

Reed is pushing for changes within the village's Citizen Police Oversight Committee. It oversees possible incidents of police misconduct.

"Right now, that committee is somewhat - I guess they've lost their power over the years," Reed said.

He is working with village staff so everyone has more understanding as the village grapples with understanding this reality.

Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb spoke out and condemned the vandalism of the mural. But he said he had no comment about the signs being defaced.

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