November 4, 2020
I have been asked to share my thoughts about the Black Lives Matter flags currently flying at Carrboro Town Hall.
Shortly after the killing of George Floyd in May, the Town Council began conversations about placing a Black Lives Matter mural on a town building. On July 14, while discussing plans for a permanent mural, we unanimously approved the flying of Black Lives Matter flags at Town Hall. The flags have flown there since July 20.
Last Thursday, the executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections requested that we remove the flags from Town Hall, which was an early voting site. This request came late in the early voting period, after 14 days during which more than 7,400 people had cast their votes there. After consulting with the town attorney, we chose to leave the flags in place.
We often fly flags at Town Hall. Like many communities around the nation, we have flown US flags on days of national observance, we have flown Pride flags in support of LGBTQ equality, and we have flown orange flags on Gun Violence Awareness Day. We do this to highlight and advocate for values that are important to the community. The Black Lives Matter flags currently adorning Town Hall are an expression of our community’s acknowledgment of and opposition to systemic and institutional racism. The flags are nonpartisan, and their display does not constitute election-related activity under North Carolina law.
How ironic that here in the South, with our legacy of disenfranchisement of Black people and ongoing efforts to deter Black people from voting, there is an argument that the words “Black Lives Matter” cause voter intimidation. We can simultaneously consider the concerns of any voter who may feel offended by these words while also recognizing that the complaints of voter intimidation are disingenuous.
Town Hall proudly welcomed the second highest number of early voters in Orange County this year. It is the traditional voting location of choice for many, as well as a longstanding Election Day voting site. Town Hall should continue to be a place where all citizens can exercise and celebrate their right to vote without intimidation or interference, and I will continue to advocate for this on behalf of the community.
Lydia E. Lavelle
Mayor, Town of Carrboro, NC