Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) had “Black Lives Matter” painted on a section of 16th Street NW leading to the White House on Friday.
In addition to the street-wide mural, Bowser has renamed part of the street — running from K Street to Lafayette Square in front of the White House — to Black Lives Matter Plaza.
The bold display was intended to honor those who have been protesting racism, police brutality, and the death of George Floyd — a black man who was killed last week when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes while ignoring Floyd’s cries for help.
“There was a dispute this week about whose street this is,” John Falcicchio, Bowser’s chief of staff, tweeted. “Mayor Bowser wanted to make it abundantly clear that this is DC’s street and to honor demonstrators who peacefully protesting on Monday evening.”
Bowser shared a video to Twitter showing the newly painted street, panning over the mural before ending her video looking at the White House.
The mayor also acknowledged birthday of Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was killed in March when police officers forcibly entered her home and shot her eight times during an attempted drug sting. Protesters are demanding that the officers who shot the 26-year-old EMT be arrested and charged.
“Breonna Taylor, on your birthday, let us stand with determination,” Bowser wrote. “Determination to make America the land it ought to be.”
Breonna Taylor, on your birthday, let us stand with determination.
Determination to make America the land it ought to be. pic.twitter.com/XOfu6CGEGY
— Mayor Muriel Bowser (@MayorBowser) June 5, 2020
The section of 16th street in front of the White House is now officially “Black Lives Matter Plaza”. pic.twitter.com/bbJgAYE35b
— Mayor Muriel Bowser (@MayorBowser) June 5, 2020
While Bowser was praised by some on social media, the repainting was called a “performative distraction” to “appease white liberals” by the D.C. chapter of Black Lives Matter.
“This is a performative distraction from real policy changes,” Black Lives Matter DC tweeted. “Bowser has consistently been on the wrong side of BLMDC history. This is to appease white liberals while ignoring our demands. Black Lives Matter means defund the police.”
The painting of 16th Street came after Bowser had earlier Friday requested that President Donald Trump remove “all extraordinary federal law enforcement and military presence from our city.”
In a letter shared to Twitter, Bowser noted that a previously imposed curfew had ended and that current protesters “have been peaceful,” she said that the city was “well equipped to handle large demonstrations and First Amendment activities.”
“Furthermore, I continue to be concerned that unidentified federal personnel patrolling the streets of Washington, DC pose both safety and national security risks,” Bowser wrote. “The deployment of federal law enforcement personnel and equipment are inflaming demonstrators and adding to the grievances of those who, by and large, are peacefully protesting for change and for reforms to the racist and broken systems that are killing Black Americans.”
Bowser noted that the “unidentified units are operating outside of established chains of command,” and said it was concerning that they “lack identifying insignia.”
“This multiplicity of forces can breed dangerous confusion, such as when helicopters are used in a war-like tactic to frighten and disperse peaceful protesters,” Bowser wrote.
The letter came after the Trump administration ordered police on Monday to fire tear gas at peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park, in order to disperse them prior to a heavily criticized photo op at St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Trump had also discussed the possibility of taking control of D.C. police, after threatening to deploy the army to stop protests in D.C. and other cities.
Here's the moment where police fired teargas into a crowd of peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park, just minutes before Trump's address in the Rose Garden. pic.twitter.com/KPjxMKdDyx
— Cameron Peters (@jcameronpeters) June 1, 2020
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!