Black Lives Matter painting on Elk Avenue stirs community emotions

Council figuring out town relationship with the BLM subcommittee

By Mark Reaman

The Black Lives Matter street painting on Elk Avenue took five Crested Butte Public Works employees about six hours to put down on Monday, September 21. The town ordered 60 gallons of the street paint and used about 45 gallons for the project. The cost of the paint was just under $1,500 and, with the man hours and other supplies factored in, the entire street mural cost about $2,810.

The town crew began the work about midnight and by about 6 a.m. when the sun began to rise, they were watching the yellow paint dry. Photos of the new street painting began to appear on social media around 7 a.m. The comments, both pro and con, have not stopped. They ranged from total support for the town action to people pledging to never again set foot in Crested Butte. Travel Crested Butte posted a photo of the street on Facebook Monday and more than 1,000 comments (many by the same people) were made by that evening. By Tuesday evening, more than 3,000 comments were tabulated.

The Crested Butte News posted a drone shot of the painting on Facebook Tuesday afternoon and it took just a few hours to get hundreds of comments, reactions or shares. Comments ranged from love for Crested Butte for doing it, hate for Crested Butte for doing it and the hope that the yellow street paint used in the project was better than the blue paint used in the Bud Light Whatever event.

At Monday’s Town Council meeting, Rebecca White told the council during the public comment portion of the meeting that while she was a strong supporter of equal justice for all, she had major reservations with using the Black Lives Matter slogan, especially in so prominent a place. Like many, she referenced the international Black Lives Matter organization being run by avowed Marxists. She said she has asked the town that she be allowed to paint “Every Life Matters” in addition to the Black Lives Matter sign. Town staff explained that the council can chose to paint what they want on public property as a form of government speech so it was not a First Amendment issue and not every citizen would be granted permission to paint the street.

John Wirsing also voiced opposition to using public tax dollars to paint Black Lives Matter on Elk Avenue. He drew attention to the several recent incidents where law enforcement personnel were attacked throughout the country. “I ask you to honor police officers with ‘Blue Lives Matter’ as well at the Fourth or Fifth Street intersections of Elk,” he suggested. “Let the local officers know you have their backs. Support some positive things like our local police.”

Subcommittee evolution

At the end of the meeting the council debated whether to continue facilitating the Black Lives Matter committee that was organized last month.

“I think it would be a good idea for the BLM committee to be an independent organization separate from town—sort of like HCCA—instead of being under the town,” said mayor Jim Schmidt, who noted another major committee meeting was slated for September 25. “I feel the need to let that committee be strong on its own and come to the town with their ideas.”

The two council members most associated with involving the town in the BLM discussion, Mallika Magner and Will Dujardin, thought it should play out under the town umbrella for at least a bit longer.

“I would like to continue a Crested Butte committee of Black Lives Matter for the time being,” suggested Magner.

“I think it is important to keep it in place right now,” agreed Dujardin. “In the long run, maybe it doesn’t come under our structure. I think we take it to the county’s OVLC [One Valley Leadership Council] and see their appetite for it.”

Magner suggested that after the next meeting perhaps the BLM committee would branch out on its own and use her and Dujardin to communicate with the Town Council over potential action items that emerge from the committee. Schmidt agreed with that plan.

Dujardin said it might take more than one or two committee meetings to get to that point. He said the various subcommittees were still refining some of their ideas.

“Let’s have a discussion after the next BLM committee meeting and we can figure out what should fall under the purview of the town,” suggested council member Chris Haver.

The rest of the council agreed to resume the conversation in the near future.

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