Protest Sign Made by Third Grader Inspires the Nation When it Mysteriously Travels to Protests

In Minneapolis after the murder of George Floyd, the teachers of Lake Country School grappled with how to make sense of the event with their students.

It was COVID time, so when normally they would be together, hug, and look into each others’ eyes, they had to think of a different way.

The school principal, Ben Moudry, took into consideration the natural inclination of children to want to help in a time of trouble and right wrongs.

He encouraged students to join their feelings with the thousands in the streets of the city by making signs and sharing pictures of their signs with the school community.

Mathias Brinda, a third grader, made a huge sign using a quote from Bishop Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

The Brinda family hung it on the fence of the school, and they sent a photo around showing Mathias standing by his sign, smiling and with his poodle. This was May 28th.

At a school meeting later in the week, someone mentioned that the sign was no longer on the fence. They assumed it had been taken by vandals.

But, then the sign turned up when the New York Times ran this photo of the ongoing Minneapolis protest. In front of a huge spray-painted image of George Floyd’s face, a man in a black mask kneeled, head bowed, behind Mathias’s sign.

Then it showed up in The Atlantic. Three children, fists raised, were holding Mathias’s sign, with the youngest so small he could barely get his face over the edge—but even still, you can see his pride.

And then, miraculously, it came back. On June 10th, Lucinda Anderson, who works at the school, went to pay respects at the massive memorial site on 38th Street, where George Floyd died. Outpourings of emotion, flowers and paintings, covered the intersection. It started to rain, and people scrambled to collect the bouquets and works of art. As Anderson helped gather things, she found the sign in her hands.

She brought it back to the school and attached it to the fence. That’s where it is now, along with the signs of Mathias’s classmates. Even with the schoolyard still empty, this school community has shown up in its signs of good.