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Children are decorating a school with chalk art supporting Black Lives Matter, but people keep washing the messages away

Andrew Cuomo

A Baltimore-area elementary school is the scene of an unlikely free speech battle because people keep washing away the chalk art messages and drawings that children created in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The students, family and community members around Hillcrest Elementary in Catonsville have been persistent and the school’s red brick walls are again covered with vibrant messages calling for peace and racial justice.

Children have been decorating the building to show their love for the school and their teachers since the school closed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

That message changed following the death of George Floyd last month and people started writing messages supporting Black Lives Matter and calling for peace and racial justice.

“We do not have details on how the chalk art was removed, but community members wrote supportive chalk messages on the wall of the school multiple times in the last week,” the Baltimore County Public Schools said in a statement.

School officials did not have advanced knowledge about the messages, according to the statement.

“These are not easy times in our nation, and yet our Hillcrest family once again demonstrated that love is the way forward,” said Principal Jennifer Lynch in a letter to parents provided to CNN. “Recently students and families created new viral art messages of love, peace, hope, and acknowledgment of the current struggles to our communities of color as well as messages and love and support to our men and women in blue.”

Monday, an off-duty police officer yelled at a woman and told her to stop using a pressure washer to write a message on a sidewalk at the school, Baltimore County Police Sgt. Vickie Warehime told CNN. That person erased a message that said “defund the police,” she said.

The man does not work for the Baltimore County Police Department, she said.

Someone also confronted Lynch about the art, but Warehime said the principal couldn’t tell whether it was the same person when they reviewed security footage from the school.

In anther incident, a man was seen using a long-handled brush and a bucket to scrub away all of the art in a video that’s been widely circulated on social media.

At one point the man is heard saying “All lives matter, buddy. All lives matter.”

Warehime told CNN that man was not the off-duty officer.

In a tweet posted Wednesday, the school said “police have been fantastic in protecting the mural and our families as they create.”

In her letter to families, Lynch said the art “is just a temporary demonstration of our commitment to equity,” and said the school would provide other opportunities for expression and activism when they start cleaning the school to prepare to reopen for the next school year.

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