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Fresno Church With 'Black Lives Matter' Banners To Host Ballot Box This Election

Laura Tsutsui
Valley Public Radio
The 'Black Lives Matter' banners at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno have been up for three years, but in 2018, the county wanted the church to take them down or cover them for election day.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and Fresno County’s Registrar of Voters settled a lawsuit this week that will allow a church with Black Lives Matter banners to  host a ballot drop-box.

Reverend Tim Kutzmark with the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno says the building was a polling place for two years before the county removed it ahead of the November 2018 election. 

“The county got a complaint from one person who said the Black Lives Matter movement was a terrorist organization,” said Kutzmark. 

The lawsuit against Fresno County included the complaint, where someone, “inquired as to why it was okay to have a Black Lives Matter (a known domestic terrorist group) sign in front of our polling place.”

Kutzmark says the settlement affirms the church has a first amendment right to post the signs and highlight racial injustice. 

While it won’t be a polling place,the church will house a ballot drop-box for the next four years, including two presidential elections. Kutzmark says since the suit was filed, Fresno has reached a turning point. 

“City Hall is encouraging activists to paint BLM on the street in front of City Hall,” said Kutzmark, referencing last week’s city-sponsored event. “I think we are at a time of change, of steps forward in the crusade for racial justice in this country.”

The church has been hosting weekly vigils outside, since the killing of George Floyd. However, it has yet to resume in-person services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Laura Tsutsui was a reporter and producer for Valley Public Radio. She joined the station in 2017 as a news intern, and later worked as a production assistant and weekend host. Laura covered local issues ranging from politics to housing, and produced the weekly news program Valley Edition. She left the station in November 2020.
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