In an epic move in support of ongoing protests against police brutality and systemic racism, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser had the words “Black Lives Matter” painted in giant yellow letters on the street leading up to the White House.
City workers painted the message, which stretches for two blocks, before dawn on Friday before erecting a green street sign naming the nearby area outside of St. John’s Church the “Black Lives Matter Plaza.”
The church became the scene of controversy earlier this week when President Donald Trump ordered protesters forcibly removed so that he could pose for a photo in front of the building — a decision widely condemned by church leaders, the president’s allies, and heads of state worldwide.
“There are people who are craving to be heard and to be seen, and to have their humanity recognized, and we had the opportunity to send that message loud and clear on a very important street in our city,” Bowser, who is African American, said at a press conference. “And it is that message, and that message is to the American people, that Black Lives Matter, black humanity matters, and we as a city raise that up as part of our values as a city.”
Later on Friday, Trump referenced George Floyd — whose murder at the hands of Minneapolis police officers has sparked days of protest in D.C. and cities across the world — in a speech on the economy and improving unemployment rates.
“Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this a great thing that’s happening for our country,” Trump stated. “There’s a great day for him. It’s a great day for everybody. It’s a great day for everybody. There’s a great, great day in terms of equality.”
The president’s comment quickly received fierce backlash. In addition to pointing out the fact that unemployment for Black Americans is actually increasing, critics say the message is clearly emblematic of the president’s tone deafness regarding the Black Lives Matter movement.
Democratic National Committee spokesperson Brandon Gassaway called Trump’s remarks “revolting, enraging, disrespectful — a slap in the face and a descent to the lowest possible level of discourse.”
The White House claims that the president’s statement, which was made live on air, has been taken out of context.