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Hostile response online to Black Lives Matter worries Galloway church

Hostile response online to Black Lives Matter worries Galloway church

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GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — The reverend and congregation of a church that unveiled a “Black Lives Matter” banner on Pomona Road say they are fearful after a receiving a hostile response to the sign on social media.

Rev. Cynthia Cain said comments on the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Jersey Shore’s Facebook page could be described as threats. Many of the comments on the page also state: “All Lives Matter.”

“When we say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ they mistranslate it to ‘ONLY Black Lives Matter.’ Why? Are they afraid that people might start empathizing with people of color?” Cain asked.

Police Chief Donna Higbee said Cain contacted the police department, which reviewed the Facebook comments and found none of the posts was threatening.

Higbee said social media works both ways, and people are free to support any movement they like, but people are free to also comment as long as it is not threatening.

Cain said as a precaution, the predominantly white congregation will reevaluate security at the building after hateful comments were posted to its Facebook page.

“People in the congregation are clear and supportive of the movement and the sign, but some are scared with the pushback from the reaction to the sign,” Cain said. “People are posting on our page that this movement better stop and needs to stop, and that could be considered a threat.”

Some of the comments on the page also accuse the church of being racist and anti-law enforcement.

During a ceremony Sunday, the congregation hung the double-sided banner on the congregation’s property facing Pomona Road.

Cain said people have a false assumption that believing “black lives matter” means hating the police.

She said the congregation loves and respects those who risk their lives for public safety, and want to promote discussion and understanding between the black community and police.

Higbee said the department’s patrol division was aware of the sign being displayed.

“I believe that Galloway Township has a great relationship with its community, and I want to keep it that way,” she said.

“We’re here to respond if there are threats, but nothing has been reported yet. If anything happens to anyone in this community, we respond to it. We will not tolerate any threats or violence to anyone in our community,” she said.

Mayor Don Purdy said he lives one block from the church and was briefed before the sign was unveiled Sunday.

Purdy said there are no racial issues in the township that he is aware of.

“My stance is, I think all lives matter, I don’t think it matters if you’re black, white, Hispanic, Mexican or Indian, whatever nationality you are, you a resident of this country,” said Purdy.

Purdy said that nothing surprises him when it comes to offensive and hateful comments posted on social media, and that he doesn’t support any movement that condones violence against any law enforcement, first responders or members of the public.

“These posts could honestly be coming from anywhere and not particularly from this community. But today everything should be taken seriously even if it is posted on social media,” Purdy said.

Contact: 609-513-6686

DWeaver@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressWeaver

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