Mayor Bill de Blasio authorized the mural last month, to the chagrin of United States President Donald Trump.
As cities across the United States display their solidarity with and commitment to African Americans, they have been painting Black Lives Matter murals on their streets. The latest city to join the trend is none other than New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio commissioned the mural to be painted right in front of everybody's favorite building, Trump Tower. Though United States President Donald Trump originally objected to the location of the mural—because of course he did—the city didn't care much for his protests (ironic, isn't it?). The Mayor even rolled up his sleeves and helped complete the project as well, CNN reports.
It’s happening: the Black Lives Matter mural is being painted today in front of Trump Tower. pic.twitter.com/7WodMnkoKQ— Sarah Jorgensen (@SarahLJorgensen) July 9, 2020
Volunteers got started on the project on Thursday morning, painting a stretch of Fifth Avenue, just in front of the Trump Organization's headquarters. The project was approved by Mayor de Blasio last month. He joined the volunteers on Thursday alongside civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton. Though social distancing was not possible, everyone made sure to wear masks. It was just last week that the Mayor fielded criticism from President Trump for his decision to authorize the mural. In response, he stated, "President Trump said we would be denigrating the luxury of Fifth Avenue. Let me tell you: we're not denigrating anything, we are liberating Fifth Avenue, we are uplifting Fifth Avenue."
The civil rights activist was joined by the mayor of New York City to paint a new Black Lives Matter mural outside of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue.— SkyNews (@SkyNews) July 9, 2020
Watch more videos from Sky News here: https://t.co/t5ew3JPYk2 pic.twitter.com/gKk97y2yFC
"When we say 'Black Lives Matter' there is no more American statement, there's no more patriotic statement, because there is no America without Black America," he affirmed. "We are acknowledging the truth in ourselves and in America. By saying 'Black lives matter' we are righting a wrong." Trump had previously claimed the mural would be a "symbol of hate" in addition to suggesting that officers from the New York Police Department (NYPD) could block the project. He wrote on Twitter, "Maybe our GREAT police, who have been neutralized and scorned by a mayor who hates and disrespects them, won't let this symbol of hate be affixed to New York's greatest street. Spend this money fighting crime instead!" While the cost of the mural has not been revealed, New York City did slash a major chunk of its budget for the NYPD, perhaps another pain point for the President.
Despite the budget cuts and the mural, many Black Lives Matter protestors are dissatisfied. They are demanding real, tangible, and infrastructural change. When the mural in Washington, DC, was revealed, the local chapter of the Black Lives Matter Global Network called the mural a "performative distraction from real policy changes." Dominique Hazzard, who is part of the DC chapter, explained, "The paint on the street is a beautiful symbol. It's very nice. But you need real actions for Black people here in DC. We need to divest from that money and invest that money in things that actually keep people safe, like housing, health care, food, conflict resolution, and services on our streets. That's what we need to keep us safe. And if Black lives matter, those are the kinds of changes they'll make." In New York City, the mural was far from a "symbol of hate." As dozens of diverse volunteers gathered to create a work of art, there was a palpable sense of community and inclusivity. However, the mural is not a symbol of change either—there is more work to be done.