Rt. 1 Communities Promote Tolerance With Signs

Hyattsville lawn signs Black Lives Matter Welcome Your NeighborsThe national election was almost six months ago, but political lawn signs are still going strong in Hyattsville and other Route 1 communities like University Park.

In the months since the presidential election, signs have popped up all over the area promoting tolerance in many forms.

One particularly popular sign says in three languages: “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.” Signs featuring Spanish, Arabic and Amharic—all languages spoken by the diverse local immigrant community—have been spotted.

That sign comes from the Welcome Your Neighbors movement, a loosely affiliated group that started with a handmade sign at a Mennonite church in Harrisonburg, Va. Pastor Matthew Bucher told NPR that he painted the sign in frustration at the rhetoric on immigration of the presidential primary debates, and it grew from there:

As Mennonites visiting Harrisonburg brought signs back to their home communities, the message spread to other towns. Immanuel Mennonite printed another 300 signs, then another thousand. They posted the PDF of the sign on their website and encouraged anyone who is interested to download and print as many signs as they want, coordinating mass orders on a Facebook page called “Welcome your Neighbors.”

The University Park Church of the Brethren, one of the three major pacifist Christian denominations in the U.S. with the Mennonites and the Quakers, is a major local promoter of these signs, featuring a large one on its site along Route 1.

University Park welcome your neighbors lawn sign amharic arabic

The signs are in part a reaction to the election results in an area that went by heavily for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. (In Hyattsville alone, 81 percent of voters backed Clinton and just 12 percent backed Trump.)

But they are also a reflection of a diverse community—37 percent of residents were born in another country, nearly three times the national average—that has long been fairly socially liberal.

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