Billboard Sparks Conversation And Police Frustration

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A billboard in northeast Columbus is creating some controversy.

It says "Black Lives Matter" and offers tips to both young people and police.

Outside the Marlan Gary Funeral Home Chapel of Peace in the Linden area is a sign you might not expect to see--"average is only top of the bottom." Inside is the man responsible for it--a man trying to encourage the community he serves.

"I don't want to build my business on someone making a bad decision,” said Marlan Gary.

As a funeral director, Gary tells 10TV that he has seen the results of too many bad decisions. He's heard too many funeral songs, has seen too many mothers wipe away tears and has witnessed too many young people leave before their time.

"I never like to see anybody come through here premature,” Gary said.

It's why Gary says he has been using billboard space at 5th and Woodward Avenue to make people think.

He has encouraged church attendance with a previous sign and remembering the reason for the Christmas season with another one.

His latest billboard tells passers-by that “Black Lives Matter.”

"Right now, I see no need to take it down,” he said. “It's still a very relevant message."

The sign offers tips for young people when confronted by police and also gives police officers advice. It says "you can stop me without killing me."

"It was not an attack on the police just like it's not an attack on young people,” Gary said.

Columbus police have expressed frustration over the billboard. They gave 10TV the following statement: “We are disappointed something like that would be erected considering the efforts the police have put forward in community policing.'"

Police point to community meetings hosted by Chief Kim Jacobs as an example of their efforts to build relationships with the community.

Gary says he meant no disrespect to the police with his billboard. He's just hoping his sign can make a difference in saving lives.

"All lives matter,” he said. “The black lives matter and the police lives matter as well."