The city’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, who is African American, ordered a two-block section of 16th Street closed off while workers painted the words in bold, yellow, all-capital letters across the surface. The street is described as a “central axis” that leads southward towards the White House. The section of road is also just two blocks from Lafayette Square, the site that has become the scene of protests for nearly two weeks now, since the death of unarmed African American George Floyd.
St. John’s Church, Lafayette Square is on the section of the street where the words are printed as well. St. John’s is the church President Trump famously stood in front of while holding a Bible for a photo op. Prior to the president’s arrival, a tear gas-like chemical was used to disperse the peaceful protesters, forcing them to clear the square and move to the street.
Local reporter Justin Finch noted the words’ prominence.
Just after 10:30a, the mural is largely complete. Crowds are coming over to watch the progress. Mayor Bowser is set to speak from nearby St. John’s Church in the 11a hour pic.twitter.com/MJKnrFYXuu— Justin Finch (@JustinNBC4) June 5, 2020
Indeed, CNN reporter AJ Willingham noted the message will likely be visible from the air — able to be seen by any news, police, or military helicopters flying overhead.
However, not everybody in the District was happy by the effort. For example, the Washington chapter of Black Lives Matter suggested it may be too little too late from Bowser.
“This is performative and a distraction from her inaction and active counter organizing to our demands to decrease the police budget and invest in community,” the organization said.
On Saturday, “thousands” are expected to attend a protest in the city. Washington’s WRC-TV predicted the Saturday protest will be the largest yet in the city since Floyd’s death.
Also on Friday, as The Hill reported, Bowser sent an open letter to Trump calling for him to “withdraw all extraordinary federal law enforcement and military presence” from the city.
“The deployment of federal law enforcement personnel and equipment are inflaming demonstrators and adding to the grievances of those who, by and large, are peacefully protesting for change and reforms to the racist and broken systems that are killing Black Americans,” Bowser wrote.
The mayor is joined by some military leaders, current and former, in condemning the use of military force against American citizens. James Mattis and William Perry, for example, have both strongly rebuked the president for the use of the military to quell protests in D.C.