A church in North Hollywood, California, is receiving backlash after its volunteers put up “no trespassing” signs when they saw a Black woman sitting under a tree. The church has since apologized.
According to local CBS affiliate CBSLA, Alex Marshall-Brown sat down under a tree outside of the St. Paul Lutheran Church to “do work.” As she was sitting there, two men from the church approached the area where she was sitting with signs in tow. As they began nailing them to the tree, Marshall-Brown can be heard telling the men that their actions are unwarranted.
“I’m clearly not bothering anyone. I’m clearly sitting here doing work, so this is in excess of anything that needs to happen,” she says.
When Marshall-Brown asks the men if they bought the signs just because she was sitting there, one of them confirms that the signs were being placed there just for her. “You know we used to be real nice about it,” he says in response to her query and implication that the church was going against its own morals by discouraging and denying her shelter. “Not anymore.”
A split second later, the same male volunteer, unprovoked, tells Marshall-Brown “All Lives Matter” and confirms that they are putting the signs up as a “precursor” to calling the police on her.
The exchange was caught on video and posted to social media, which caught the attention of nearby activists and Santiago Botero, the acting principal of St. Paul’s school. On Facebook, the church addressed Tuesday’s events, saying that the situation was handled in a way that was not “representative of the church or the school.” The church also confirmed that the volunteers who were involved in the exchange chose to voluntarily step down from their positions.
“I am personally offended by what I saw in the video and would like to apologize on behalf of St. Paul’s First,” Botero said. As Christians, it is our duty to demonstrate to others the love and mercy that Christ shows to us. Unfortunately, this did not happen yesterday.”
While the church argues that Marshall-Brown was in violation of its no loitering policy, which is intended to keep the kids of the school safe, it said that she was clearly not posing a threat and the situation should have been handled differently.
A demonstration was held in front of St. Paul’s First on Wednesday night in response to the egregious actions by the volunteers and a parishioner. Another one is being planned for Sunday. St. Paul’s has promised Marshall-Brown it will seek out racial bias training to prevent another incident like the one she experienced.