A Lutherville church says that a series of "Black Lives Matter" signs it has erected have been stolen or vandalized in the past year, and it has issued on invitation to the community to discuss its reasons for posting the banners .
Members of Towson Unitarian Universalist Church first erected a sign last October to show support for the sentiment and the national movement behind it, according to the Rev. Clare Petersberger, the church's leader.
Since then, nine versions of the sign have been torn and defaced or stolen from the property.
The first sign, which cost the church about $250, was torn down and its frame destroyed five days after it was erected last fall. It consisted of three 4-foot-by-2-foot banners, each containing one word of the phrase.
The congregation bought cheaper $8 yard signs to provide a temporary replacement, according to Petersberger, but those signs were also vandalized when on the night of Nov. 8-9, someone covered the word "black" on the temporary signs with white spray paint.
The church has continued to replace the signs since.
Baltimore County police installed security cameras for six weeks in January and February to catch who was stealing and vandalizing the signs but the investigation did not produce a suspect, according to police spokesman Cpl. Shawn Vinson.
Police continue to investigate the destruction of subsequent signs, Vinson said.
Three churches in the Annapolis area, which all put up signs supporting the movement, have seen their signs either stolen or defaced since 2015, according to news reports.
The church hung its 10th "Black Lives Matter" sign Oct. 7 and rededicated itself to the message during services the following Sunday, Petersberger said.
The church also announced an open invitation to members of the community who would like to learn more about its decision to display the banner. Members will host a discussion from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 12 at the church, 1710 Dulaney Valley Road.
"One of the ones taken in February ... had underneath it, 'Join us for the Conversation.' That's what we'd like to do — invite people to come for a conversation going forward," Petersberger said.
The Black Lives Matter movement began in 2012 after the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida, according to the group's website.
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Its members and supporters have received criticism for being "anti-police," but the church does not see it that way and has appreciated the support of the Baltimore County Police Department throughout its investigation, Petersberger said.