The city of Washington, D.C., is echoing a call for justice by ceremonially naming a road and painting an unmissable message on a street that leads to the White House: Black lives matter.
A section of 16th Street in front of the White House is now ceremonially named Black Lives Matter Plaza, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Friday. Earlier, the road was painted with huge yellow letters spelling out the name of the movement.
"We want to call attention today to making sure our nation is more fair and more just and that black lives and that black humanity matter in our nation," Bowser said.
A green street sign reading Black Lives Matter Plaza was affixed Friday morning to a lamp post outside St. John's Church. That's where federal forces used munitions and pepper spray on Monday to clear peaceful protesters and make way for President Donald Trump to take a photo outside the iconic yellow and white building, which was damaged by a fire during protests.
Before dawn Friday, a D.C. Department of Public Works crew closed the street so painting could begin. The yellow letters stretch from curb to curb of 16th Street NW between H and K streets.
The lettering is so large that the message stretches onto two city blocks and can only be fit into a single photo frame from high above. A bright yellow D.C. flag was painted after the message.
"It's super pointed, it helps to correct from the terrible thing that happened at the church that's right there," one woman said, referring to St. John's.
The two blocks are just north of Lafayette Square, where anti-police-brutality and anti-racism protesters have chanted "Black lives matter" for a week, moved by the death of George Floyd.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser posted a video showing the completed work around 10:40 a.m., panning to show how the message points to the White House and Washington Monument.
Around 11 a.m., a city worker walked onto a lift decorated with a city flag and a pro-D.C. statehood banner. The worker attached the new street sign.
Bowser hadn't publicly announced the move ahead of time. It appears to be another move in Bowser's ongoing spar with President Trump over the use of federal forces in D.C.
Then Friday evening, Bowser tweeted video of Black Lives Matter light projections on buildings on either side of the street.
"There was a dispute this week about whose street this is," the mayor's chief of staff, John Falcicchio, said on Twitter. "Mayor Bowser wanted to make it abundantly clear that this is DC’s street and to honor demonstrators who peacefully protesting on Monday evening."
District leaders are also showing support for a movement decrying the deaths of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and other African Americans as consequences of an inequitable, racially biased justice system.
Black Lives Matter DC asked the mayor’s office to match words with action, saying in a tweet, “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.”
Protesters stood in the pouring rain on Thursday night in their seventh straight night of large demonstrations after Floyd was killed when a former Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.
On Saturday, thousands of people are expected to march in downtown D.C. in the largest demonstration yet in the capital.