WATERTOWN, MASS. (WHDH) - A woman confronted a man mopping up messages of support for the Black Lives Matter Movement in Watertown sparking a difficult First Amendment issue.

On a bike ride through Watertown Square, Mary Burns stopped to question a man using a mop and bucket to wash away chalk messages of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and recorded their encounter.

“I said, ‘Why are you doing that?’ And he said, ‘It is offensive and divisive and I am exercising my First Amendment rights.’ And I said, ‘Well you are erasing everyone else’s first amendment rights,’ Burns said. “So black lives don’t matter, just your life matters?”

The man washed away the word “black” in “black lives matter” and before she started recording, Burns said the man used the mop to erase the names of George Floyd and a number of others.

That man who wore a full-face mask later spoke to 7NEWS, identified himself as David, and said, “I didn’t stop anyone from writing words on the sidewalk this area but it is also my right to erase those words with a wet mop.”

“As an American citizen, I believe in the right to express yourself,” he continued. “I am, in a social sense, colorblind. I do not recognize any race or people.”

“It is outrageous,” Burns said earlier in the day. “I don’t know what could be so wrong with writing down the names of young black men who are victims of police brutality.”

The messages were rewritten by others and Burns said that was symbolic of the Black Lives Matter movement’s staying power.

“Can you not acknowledge killing anyone, unarmed, is bad, and is your hatred so bad you cannot allow these men and women be honored in chalk,” Burns posited.

The messages were part of dozens written around the square before a protest to call for change after George Floyd’s died in police custody.


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