WESTPORT—The Unitarian Church in Westport displayed a Black Lives Matter sign on their property Wednesday in a show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Created after the 2012 killing of black teenager Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman, Black Lives Matter is a call to action and response a response to racism against blacks. The movement has been extremely active in the wake of many notable fatal police shootings of blacks, including the July shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA and the September shooting of Terence Crutcher, who was unarmed, in Tulsa, OK.

Crutcher’s death was recorded on video where he can be seen raising his hands above his head. Unitarian Church of Westport’s Senior Minister Rev. John Morehouse said the Tulsa instance was the final straw that spurred his congregation to play a more pronounced role in helping to quell the police shootings, political rhetoric, lack of opportunity, and disproportionate rate of mass incarceration of African American males.

“What really tipped the balance for us, particularly, was the shooting in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which was so blatantly wrong and the hateful political rhetoric. Our congregation in Tulsa was very proactive in helping to create a conversation about Black Lives Matter and about the issue of race in general,” Morehouse said.

Morehouse made clear that his church doesn’t condone the use of violence against police officers and that they don’t condone “the anti-Israeli sentiment in parts of the Black Lives Matter movement.”

“It doesn’t mean that cops lives don’t matter or that white lives don’t matter. Black people, going all the way back to slavery, have been dealt a distinct disadvantage and we’re proclaiming that their lives matter as much as any other life,” Morehouse said.

Before the banner was dedicated on Sunday, Morehouse discussed it with Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas. Koskinas said that they invited him to the dedication ceremony and that he had no issues with the sign going up.

“When I see Black Lives Matter, I do not automatically assume that it is anti-police,” Koskinas said. “As a police chief, and understanding what’s going around, I do not see a Black Lives Matter banner as anti-police. The way it was discussed and handled at the Unitarian church was very well done and reiterated to me that they were very supportive of the Westport police.”

Koskinas went on to emphasize that his department seeks to protect everyone’s rights, regardless of their views towards police.

In June of 2015, the entire Unitarian Universalist denomination voted to support the core values of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The banner is up for an indefinite amount of time and if it is taken down, another one will be put up to replace it, Morehouse said.

“When they drive by I want them to think about what it means and I want them to engage in a conversation with other people about what it means,” Rev. John Morehouse said. “We’ve had a lot of support from the community saying that this is important for us to do and it’s important for us to have a conversation about race. We see this as a beginning for a conversation on race.”

@chrismmarquette; cmarquette@bcnnew.com