News & Politics

This State-Sanctioned Graffiti Is the Ultimate Example of Anti-Trump Pettiness

Twitter screenshot of "Black Lives Matter" paint on the streets of D.C.

After protests over the horrific police killing of George Floyd devolved into riots that proved destructive of black lives, black livelihoods, and black monuments, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser decided she would permanently paint the streets with state-sanctioned graffiti reading, “Black Lives Matter.”

“Holy cow. The city of DC is out here on 16th [Street] behind the White House painting BLACK LIVES MATTER onto the streets — that it owns — stretching all the way to [K] Street,” The New York Times Emily Badger tweeted with a photo.

“This is also going to be a real middle finger to any federal forces flying overhead,” Badger added. Then she noted the permanent nature of the state-sanctioned graffiti. “This is the same paint the city uses to stripe road lanes. That’s not… temporary sidewalk chalk,” she added.

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Bowser celebrated the new paint job with a tweet commemorating Breonna Taylor, who was killed in a plainclothes “no-knock warrant” police action tangentially related to two suspects who were already in custody. This horrific police action was arguably no better than an armed home invasion. But like the horrific killing of George Floyd, it does not justify destructive and deadly riots, which Bowser downplayed.

“Breonna Taylor, on your birthday, let us stand with determination. Determination to make America the land it ought to be,” Bowser tweeted with a video of the “Black Lives Matter” street paint and party music blasting from city-owned loudspeakers.

Bowser also celebrated the renaming of the section of 16th Street in front of the White House as “Black Lives Matter Plaza.”

Bowser’s moves seem calculated to aggravate President Donald Trump, even though the president has condemned the violence against George Floyd and has strongly supported criminal justice reform. The D.C. mayor has pledged to “fight” Trump, going so far as to kick National Guard troops the president brought in from other states out of hotels in the nation’s capital.

Trump has consistently expressed solidarity with peaceful protesters opposing police brutality as illustrated in the case of George Floyd. The Trump campaign put out a video — which Twitter removed for a copyright violation — mourning Floyd’s death, expressing solidarity with protesters and with the police who joined them in protesting the police abuse in Floyd’s death, and condemning the violent riots, calling for order.

Yet Trump’s critics — including Joe Biden — have condemned him for inciting violence. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio even blamed Trump for the anger behind the riots! Some have suggested that by trying to put down the violent riots, Trump was acting like a fascist and encouraging police brutality. The president’s statements and actions have not been perfect in the situation, but he has consistently championed law and order and consistently condemned the killing of George Floyd.

However Trump takes Bowser’s move, the D.C. chapter of Black Lives Matter did not celebrate it.

“This is performative and a distraction from her active counter organizing to our demands to decrease the police budget and invest in the community. Black Lives Matter means Defund the police,” Black Lives Matter D.C. tweeted.

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Meanwhile, elsewhere in D.C., an activist shouted at women for cleaning up graffiti.

“Why are you guys removing Black Lives Matter’s graffiti?” a woman asked the women cleaning up graffiti. “But why do you want that to come off?”

“Because this is a federal building,” one woman replied. “This is vandalism,” another added.

“So you don’t care about black lives, then?” the protester said. The women explained that they didn’t disagree with the message, and they do care about black lives. “Not a great way to use your white privilege ladies… that’s disgusting,” the protester concluded, before driving off.

While activists are berating law-abiding citizens who remove vandalism from public buildings, Mayor Muriel Bowser is dumping permanent paint on the street to send a message.

As of Friday afternoon, the local public affairs office has not returned PJ Media’s request for comment on the issue. As a D.C.-area resident, I can testify to the difficulty of driving on streets in the metro area, half-paved streets filled with potholes, seemingly in a constant state of disrepair. Now, the central thoroughfare of 16th Street NW between H Street NW and K Street NW has permanent yellow paint with a message only visible from above. PJ Media asked the mayor’s office how it would respond to complaints that this paint will make the streets even more difficult to drive.

It appears practical concerns like the usefulness of roads are considered of little value compared to Bowser’s decision to send a political message. At least Black Lives Matter isn’t falling for the distraction — although the group’s demand to defund the police force is terrifying, especially in the wake of the riots.

Why is Bowser giving this group lip service when she (wisely) refuses its demands? It appears the location of this state-sponsored graffiti — right across from the White House — provides an answer.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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