Eight days after President Donald Trump called a planned “Black Lives Matter” mural a “symbol of hate,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Rev. Al Sharpton grabbed a couple of paint rollers and went to work on Fifth Avenue anyway Thursday. The president called it “denigrating this luxury Avenue,” but de Blasio called painting the mural “liberating Fifth Avenue.” He said the mural is about giving credit to people who have long gone without recognition for building this country.
“So when we say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ there is no more American statement, there is no more patriotic statement because there is no America without Black America,” de Blasio said. “We are acknowledging the truth of ourselves as Americans by saying ‘Black Lives Matter.’ We are righting a wrong.”
“There is no America without Black America.”
— NYC Mayor's Office (@NYCMayorsOffice) July 9, 2020
I would much rather the mayor redirect a larger portion of the city’s massive $6 billion police budget to education and social services Black and brown people could actually benefit from, but the mural is a nice gesture. It’s certainly delivering a much-needed reminder in this country that Black lives do in fact matter.
….horrible BLM chant, “Pigs In A Blanket, Fry ‘Em Like Bacon”. Maybe our GREAT Police, who have been neutralized and scorned by a mayor who hates & disrespects them, won’t let this symbol of hate be affixed to New York’s greatest street. Spend this money fighting crime instead!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 1, 2020
Sharpton told MSNBC he remembers marching on Fifth Avenue after the death of Sean Bell, who was killed in 2006 when police fired 50 bullets at him. The activist marched then to bring awareness to the fact that “police abuse was going on.” “I think this gives permanence to that,” Sharpton said.
He has marched recently to call for justice in repeated incidences of similar police violence. The most publicized recent death is that of George Floyd, who was unarmed when a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. Video of Floyd, who was suspected of forging a $20 bill, moved a nation to protest and multiple cities to approve Black Lives Matter murals on city streets.
Dominique Hazzard, a part of the Black Lives Matter chapter in Washington, D.C., told NPR it’s time for more than murals. “The paint on the street is a beautiful symbol. It’s very nice. But you need real actions for Black people here in D.C.,” she said last month in calling for the city to defund police. “We need to divest from that money and invest that money in things that actually keep people safe, like housing, health care, food, confliction 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.”