WASHINGTON – The city of Washington capped nearly a week of demonstrations against police brutality Friday by painting the words Black Lives Matter in enormous bright yellow letters on the street leading to the White House, a highly visible display of the local government's embrace of protests that has put it further at odds with President Donald Trump.
Mayor Muriel Bowser said the painting by city workers and local artists that spans two blocks is intended to send a message of support and solidarity to Americans outraged over the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.
It comes as the mayor has sparred with Trump over the response to the protests and as D.C. prepared for a demonstration on Saturday that was expected to bring tens of thousands of people into a city still under coronavirus restrictions.
“We know what’s going on in our country. There is a lot of anger. There is a lot of distrust of police and the government," the mayor said at a news conference. “There are people who are craving to be heard and to be seen and to have their humanity recognized. We had the opportunity to send that message loud and clear on a very important street in our city.”
The letters and an image of the city's flag stretch across the entire width of 16th Street to the north of Lafayette Square. The mural ends near St. John's Episcopal Church, where Trump staged a photo op on Monday after officers in riot gear fired tear gas and charged demonstrators to make way for the president and his entourage.
A sign now identifies that section of 16th Street near the White House as “Black Lives Matter Plaza.”
Bowser has complained about the heavy-handed federal response to the protests and called for the removal of out-of-state National Guard troops.
She says the differences with the Trump administration highlight the need for the District of Columbia to be a state and have more control over its affairs. They may also reflect the fact that Trump is deeply unpopular in the district, where Democrat Hillary Clinton won about 90% of the vote in the 2016 presidential election.