When Ashley Lancaster, the owner of the pet supply store Hot Diggity, received notice from the Mashpee Commons that a Black Lives Matter protest had been planned not far from her shop, she rushed down to set up a sign.
“Dogs Don’t Discriminate. Be Like Dogs! #BlackLivesMatter” read the sign she set up outside her store in the Commons on June 3, the day of the protest.
Weeks later, miscommunication with the Commons would see the sign removed and then returned.
“The rally was incredible; it was a beautiful protest,” Ms. Lancaster said. She said her store manager told her that “some of the other merchants were nervous,” Ms Lancaster said. “I told her, not us.”
“There were definitely rumors going around the Commons that it wasn’t going to be a peaceful protest,” Ms. Lancaster said. She kept her shop open for most of the protest and said “there were very few people in Mashpee Commons” during the demonstrations.
Around the corner from Ms. Lancaster’s shop, the windows of the Starbucks had been boarded up, and a few Mashpee police roamed through the Commons on bikes as hundreds of protesters demonstrated at the rotary.
For weeks after the demonstrations, which were peaceful, Ms. Lancaster continued to keep the sign up.
“With today’s climate you don’t take that kind of sign down. You’re taking a stance,” she said.
The sign received positive feedback from customers and passersby alike, she said. Then, on June 13, Ms. Lancaster said a woman came into Hot Diggity asking to speak with the owner.
“She didn’t like that that our sign said that only Black lives matter. I was like, essentially, that’s too bad. That’s not what it means; we’re going to keep our sign out,” Ms. Lancaster said.
On June 19, a member of the Mashpee Commons management called Ms. Lancaster and told her that the Commons had received a complaint about the sign.
Ms. Lancaster said that the same person that had confronted her about the sign a week earlier had contacted the Commons about the sign and threatened to sue and make the sign go viral online.
The Mashpee Commons management, Ms. Lancaster said, suggested that “wouldn’t it just be easier to take it down” and, not wanting to upset her landlord, she complied.
“I took down the sign—with pain in my heart—as it represents my own views and not those of Mashpee Commons,” Ms. Lancaster said in a post on Hot Diggity’s Facebook page.
“On Juneteenth, of all days, the sign is now blank on both sides,” Ms. Lancaster wrote in the post, referencing the June 19 holiday that commemorates the emancipation of slaves in the United States.
She said in the post that the blank sign “serves as a reminder that we still have a long way to go.”
“We will do what we can to become better allies and human beings as it is abundantly clear that there are bigots in our backyard,” Ms. Lancaster wrote in the Facebook post.
The Commons responded in a Facebook post of their own a day later and stated that the staff member’s communication to Hot Diggity was “a mistake.”
“Mashpee Commons management fully supports Black Lives Matter. The Mashpee Commons staff member assumed that this was an appropriate request based on a complaint. It was not,” the post said. “This is an important time in our country and in our community. We oppose racism in any and every form. We know we can do better at Mashpee Commons, and we will.”
The message in support of Black Lives Matter has since returned to the chalk sign outside Hot Diggity.
“This whole scenario, everything about it, has opened up my eyes to a lot that is going on,” Ms. Lancaster said, adding that she will use the situation as a “learning experience” and hopes that the Mashpee Commons will, too.
A representative from the Commons turned down a request for comment and referred questions on the situation to the post made to their Facebook page.