Washington mayor Muriel Bowser on Friday renamed an area near the White House that has become the epicenter of anti-racism protests over the past week “Black Lives Matter Plaza” — unveiling a giant street mural.
But in so doing, the African-American mayor piqued the ire of the very movement she was supporting, as well as of President Donald Trump.
The protests are focused on the May 25 death in Minneapolis of 46-year-old black man George Floyd while in police custody. A white officer kneeled on his neck until he lost consciousness.
That officer and three others are now in custody and facing charges — second-degree murder for the kneeling officer, and aiding and abetting that crime for his colleagues.
Just north of the White House, the words BLACK LIVES MATTER were painted in huge yellow letters along the street leading to the presidential mansion, along with the symbol from the DC flag.
“The section of 16th street in front of the White House is now officially ‘Black Lives Matter Plaza’,” Bowser tweeted.
A city worker put up a new street sign with the name.
“Determination to make America the land it ought to be,” she said on Twitter.
The corner of 16th and H is significant — in a controversial incident on Monday, peaceful protesters gathered there were dispersed with tear gas.
Shortly afterwards, Trump walked from the White House to a nearby church for a photo op, during which he held the Bible in his hand.
“There was a dispute this week about whose street this is. Mayor Bowser wanted to make it abundantly clear that this is DC’s street and to honor demonstrators” who protested on Monday, her chief of staff John Falcicchio tweeted.
Rose Jaffe, one of the artists in the collective that painted the BLACK LIVES MATTER sign, told AFP it was “about reclaiming the streets of DC.”
But she added that Bowser “has to do more than just a photo-op — she must carry on when this is washed away” on issues like police accountability.