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N4T Investigators: Banner Battle

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TUCSON (KVOA) - The banner battle has just started. Sources told the News 4 Tucson Investigators that the controversy over the Black Lives Matter (BLM) banner, which was hung over Tucson's City Hall Building, has made its way up to the Arizona Attorney General's Office.

For nearly five weeks, the banner hung in front of City Hall before it quietly disappeared on June 19, 2020.

When the banner first went up, the Mayor's Office told News 4 Tucson, "We put this banner up as a statement of solidarity and acknowledgment of the systemic racism that our Black community still faces. The funds that were used came out of my office's budget and pale in comparison to the important message of solidarity we are sharing with our community."

The banner has been a point of contingency in the community but a spokesperson for the Mayor said that's not why it's down.

On July 2, 2020, we were told that the banner was damaged by high winds and it was taken down to be repaired. Twenty days later and the banner still wasn't back up, so we asked again.

In its most recent statement, the Mayor's Office said, "As stated before, the banner was damaged by high winds and we do not have any immediate plans to hang it back up. The Mayor displayed it first on Juneteenth with the hope of having it up through the end of June and as long as it could physically stay up."

Meanwhile, the Arizona Attorney General's Office told News 4 Tucson that they are reviewing a complaint filed with them regarding the legality of the City's banner purchase in the first place. It was a purchase made with taxpayer funds.

Tucson City Attorney, Mike Rankin said his office is not aware of any complaints filed with the AG's Office related to the banner. He said, "the expenditure was not illegal."

The AG's review came at the same time an online petition opposing the banner was circulating in our community. As of July 22, 2020, the petition had nearly 2,000 signatures. It asked Mayor Regina Romero to either remove the banner or drape a pro-police banner alongside it.

 "She made it sound like it was for Juneteenth. Which I wouldn't have had a problem if she said you know, Happy Juneteenth. But instead, it was the movement's hashtag with no other context to it," Sherri Wakefield, the creator of the petition said. ​"The initial reports that it was wind damaged... okay but she didn't clarify well and we're not gonna put it back up you know. So in my mind, that's why I've kept the petition open because her actions and her behavior up to this point makes me believe she's probably going to put it back up." 

President of the NAACP of Tucson, Doris Snowden said people can support the police and the BLM movement at the same time. She said the BLM banner should be able to fly and a pro-police banner could also fly but in a different location.

"I am in favor of the banner being fixed and put back up. If not there, in another prominent location so that we can see that we Tucsonans do support Black Lives Matter," Snowden said.

While the banner's message has been missing, Doris had another to pass on.

"Together we can accomplish more than separate," Snowden said.

In a statement, the Mayor's Office made it clear that it is done discussing the banner.

A spokesperson for the Mayor's Office said, "That's all we really have to say and will not be commenting any further on this matter."

Alexis Berdine

Alexis Berdine is an Investigative Multi-Media Journalist at KVOA.

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