Black Lives Matter Banner Burned at Library and Teen Civic Engagement

Hannah Berkheimer

Sometime between December 31st and January 3rd, a Black Lives Matter banner that was hanging on the Sebastopol Regional Library’s teen civic engagement wall was burned. The incident was reported to the police on January 3rd at 10:05 pm. A replacement, made by West 

County Students, was put up on January 19th, 2022.

This is not the first time something like this has happened. Originally, a BLM banner was put up on the teen civic engagement wall in August 2020 and then stolen in September of 2020. The second sign, a yellow sign that said “Black Lives Still Matter,” done by the Sunrise youth activist group, went up on February 2nd, 2021. That sign was found cut down on November 12th, 2021 and was then put up again that day. That was the one that was found burned on January 3rd. 

Speaking on the last incidents, West County student Amy Cohen, who was involved in the organization process for both the banner that was burned and its replacement, said that she felt more alarmed about the most recent incident than when the banner was stolen. She stated, “The fact that this one was burned definitely made it a bit more alarming to me, given the historical significance, as it feels much more overtly violent and targeted than theft.” She did not clarify what historical significance, but it is likely she is referring to violent responses of white people whenever the issue of black rights became prevalent.

According to Rosalie Abbott, the Young Adult Services Librarian, “The staff at the Sebastopol Library were horrified [when they discovered the burnt banner].” They immediately took photos to document what happened and contacted both the police and local teens. While Abbott was shocked by the situation, she was also not surprised and stated that she always checked the wall and banner every time she came to work.

Similar reactions of horror were also held by Sala des Rosiers, a student at West County who was involved in the process of putting up both signs who was “frustrated, but not surprised” when she found out the banner had been burned. She also added that “it’s easy to forget that even liberal spaces aren’t exempt from racism.”

The teen civic engagement wall was created in the summer of 2020. Its purpose was to uplift the voices of youth who were marching and speaking in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. When asked why she felt the wall was important, Abbot said, “We celebrate the right to free speech, appreciate the activism of high school students, and want their voices to be heard in our community. Students have made signs in support of human rights, women’s rights, in support of black lives, trans lives, LGBTQ+, our AAPI community, climate science, etc.” She stated that she is happy that when people go by the library, they can see what students have to say. She would also like to thank the City of Sebastopol for allowing them to use the wall since they own the building.

West County teacher, Rachel Ambrose, also feels it is important to have the teen civic engagement wall. She feels that teenagers do not have very many opportunities to have their voices heard, and she feels like this is a good opportunity for them to be heard. She also helped organize the making of the new sign by buying supplies and allowing students to work in her room after school. She was not though involved in the first two signs, which were organized by the Sunrise Movement and Rosalie Abbott at the library.

Cohen and des Rosiers both believe that it was important to replace the old banner quickly to resist the act of hatred that occurred. Des Rosiers stated that “although it’s important to acknowledge the harm done to our community, it’s also important that we don’t allow those who inflicted said harm to succeed in such a visible display of hate.” Cohen also felt the sign was important as the issue of Black Lives Matter has faded from the social consciousness in the last few months, yet the issue remains. 

The police are currently investigating the incident. 


Image of the replacement banner.