UMPD closes in on suspect in BLM banner theft

The BLM banner taken from the Breezeway.

The University of Miami Police Department (UMPD) is closing in on a suspect in the theft of a Black Lives Matter (BLM) banner from the University Center (UC) Breezeway March 2.

UMPD Captain Bill Gerlach said, upon positively identifying the suspect, the person may face criminal and disciplinary consequences. Gerlach did not confirm whether or not the suspect was a student and did not to go into detail about the open investigation, but said the department would most likely close the case “in the next couple of days.”

“If there is an arrest made, because it’s a misdemeanor theft, it will be up to the property owner whether or not they want to prosecute with the state attorney’s office,” Gerlach said.

According to the UMPD incident report, University Associate Director Brandon Gross reported the theft after he went to the Breezeway to remove the BLM banner that was scheduled to come down that day.

Gross said the banner was sponsored by the Yellow Rose Society, a community service organization consisting of minority women with an interest in social justice.

“When these banners go up, people can’t just come to campus and hang any banner they want up,” Gross said. “It has to have some affiliation with the university or university departments. You’ll see some banners for university departments, but primarily most banners are sponsored by registered COSO [Committee on Student Organizations] organizations.”

Black Awareness Month began on Feb. 1, but the banner was not placed until Feb. 6. Because of this, Gross said Yellow Rose Society members requested the banner stay up until March 6.

In an interview with The Miami Hurricane for an earlier story, senior Jaime Owens, who started the petition to hang the banner in the Breezeway, said the banner was important in challenging the “All Lives Matter” retort that has surfaced as a counter-argument against the Black Lives Matter movement.

UM School of Law Vice Dean Professor Osamudia James, who teaches a course on the BLM movement, said the banner was one way of responding to opponents.

“People are uncomfortable with the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ and you have to think about why,” James said. “It’s important to challenge people to think through that negative reaction, and the banner was one way of doing so.”

Nathalie Mairena contributed to reporting.