Concord man forced to remove Black Lives Matter sign from fence

CONCORD, Mass. ( -- A Concord, Mass., resident who was asked by town officials to remove his “Black Lives Matter” sign from his fence wrote an open letter to the person who filed the anonymous complaint to the town through an attorney.
"Certainly, we wanted to draw attention and show support for the black people being killed in our country at alarming rates," wrote Johnny Cole, father of an African American and a Latino child. "But we also wanted to prove to our children - and by extension our neighbors, including you - that equality is something that matters to us."
Concord's bylaws, which officials say are stricter than most towns in order to preserve the historic character of Concord, limit signs such as Cole's that are posted on town right-of-ways to no more than two weeks, Concord's Building Commissioner and Zoning Enforcement Officer John Minty, Jr., explained. Cole's fence is on town right-of-way. The town asked his neighbor, too, to remove a sign on the edge of their property that had been posted in support of Cole’s family.
"Moving the signs a couple of feet onto their own property, in my opinion, in interpreting the town sign bylaw, will allow them to have it up - those signs up - indefinitely, " Minty told Fox 25 by phone on Friday.
Being gay, Asian and married to a white man, Cole said he knows what it feels like to be different from other families in the neighborhood, but he wants his seven- and eight-year-old kids, who are sometimes the only children of color in their class, to be accepted and to have the same opportunities as their peers.
He believes the anonymous resident was not pleased with the "Black Lives Matter" message and simply wanted it out of the neighborhood. The sign had been up for just over the two-week limit when the town informed him.
"Initially, it was really disheartening," Cole said. "I definitely was really upset. It was really hard for both me and my husband. My kids as well, questioning why we're moving the sign."
Cole decided to move the sign a few feet into his front yard, to remain in compliance with the bylaw and avoid being cited. He also plans to file an extension to keep the sign on the fence for more than two weeks, but he said the town manager’s office told him the Town Manager Chris Whelan has not granted such an extension in his two-plus decades in the position. Minty confirmed to Fox 25 an extension is very unlikely.
Meanwhile, Cole's neighbors are rallying in his support, some already posting signs in their yards, feet away from the right-of-way boundaries, and others are ordering more.
"I personally support the sign," Katharine Roberts said. "I support the concept, and so it's a shame that it can't be seen more readily by other people."
Nearly everyone seems to be wondering just who filed the complaint.
“This is a very open and progressive neighborhood,” said neighbor Jen Morgan, “and it just shocks me that anyone would have anything against that.”
 "I don't know who filed it,” Roberts added, “but I'm quite curious, wondering which of our neighbors is really interested in taking that sign down.”