President Donald Trump blasted New York City’s plan to paint the phrase “Black Lives Matter” on Fifth Avenue in front of Trump Tower, calling it a “symbol of hate” and “denigrating [a] luxury avenue.”
What We Know:
- Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the phrase “Black Lives Matter” would be painted in large yellow letters on Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets in Manhattan, which is home to Trump Tower.
- Along with calling the move a “symbol of hate,” Trump demanded that the city spend the money on policing instead, while seemingly suggesting that NYPD officers could prevent the painting from happening.
- “The president is a disgrace to the values we cherish in New York City,” Julia Arredondo, a spokeswoman for de Blasio, said Thursday. “He can’t run or deny the reality we are facing, and anytime he wants to set foot in the place he claims is his hometown, he should be reminded that Black lives matter.”
- De Blasio said he intends for the mural, painted outside Trump Tower, to send a message to Trump. “It’s an important message to the whole nation, and obviously we want the president to hear it because he’s never shown respect for those three words. When he hears ‘Black Lives Matter,’ he presents a horrible, negative reality of something that doesn’t exist, and he misses the underlying meaning that we’re saying we have to honor the role of African Americans in our history and in our society,” de Blasio said. “We have to make it come alive today so we’re going to make it really clear to the president, it’s going to be right outside his doorstep.”
- In a series of tweets Wednesday morning, Trump wrote, “NYC is cutting Police $’s by ONE BILLION DOLLARS, and yet the @NYCMayor is going to paint a big, expensive, yellow Black Lives Matter sign on Fifth Avenue, denigrating this luxury Avenue.” Adding, “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!”
- De Blasio responded to Trump’s tweet, writing, “The fact that you see it as denigrating your street is the definition of racism.” Adding, “There is no ‘symbol of hate’ here. Just a commitment to truth,” the mayor wrote. “Only in your mind could an affirmation of people’s value be a scary thing.”
Here’s what you don’t understand:
Black people BUILT 5th Ave and so much of this nation.
Your “luxury” came from THEIR labor, for which they have never been justly compensated.
We are honoring them. The fact that you see it as denigrating your street is the definition of racism.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) July 1, 2020
- Despite the president’s objections, a city official announced that Fifth Avenue would be closed to all traffic in front of Trump Tower starting Wednesday night and running through Sunday so that the sign can be painted. However, no workers showed up at the site to stencil an outline for the project Wednesday night. It was not immediately clear why no one showed up, and there were no signs of workers as of early Thursday morning, although police officers did block off traffic.
- Carolyn Martinez-Class, a spokesperson for the New York City organization Communities United for Police Reform, said in a statement, “The only symbol of hate is President Trump. This is just his latest attempt to brazenly push hate and try to divert our attention from the urgent civil rights issues facing our communities, from violent policing to the pandemic.” She also called on the mayor to “go beyond performative gestures of support and actually make changes to abusive, racist policing in New York City to show that Black lives really matter to him.”
- Governor Andrew Cuomo also weighed in, saying he supports the murals. However, he also aimed criticism at de Blasio saying that cutting the NYPD’s budget is one thing, but trying actually to reform police should be the real goal, not simply appeasing protesters.
- During a briefing on Wednesday, reporters asked White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany why the president was calling Black Lives Matter a symbol of hate. McEnany told reporters that the president was referring to the whole organization of “Black Lives Matter” when he called it a symbol of hate. Saying, “All black lives do matter, he agrees with that sentiment, but what he doesn’t agree with is an organization that chants’ pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon’ about our police officers, our valiant heroes that are out on the street protecting us each and every day.”
- This response from Trump does not come as a surprise to many of his critics as it comes a couple of days after Trump retweeted a video in which a man who appears to be a Trump supporter shouts “white power” to a group of protesters. Trump also threatened to veto a must-pass defense bill over an amendment to rename military bases named after Confederate generals while defending the existence of Confederate monuments and statues. In the past, Trump and his aides have described some supporters of Black Lives Matter as vandals and “thugs.”
A city official announced that more murals would be painted all over the city in the coming days. One will be in Harlem on Adam Clayton Powell and 125th Street, with another in Lower Manhattan on Center Street between Worth and Reade streets. There are tentative plans for a mural in the Bronx on Morris Avenue, and one in Queens on Jamaica Avenue.