Washington, DC is painting a message in giant, yellow letters down a busy DC street ahead of a planned protest this weekend: BLACK LIVES MATTER.
The massive banner-like project spans two blocks of 16th Street, a central axis that leads southward straight to the White House. Each of the 16 bold yellow letters spans the width of the two-lane street, creating an unmistakable visual easily spotted by aerial cameras and virtually anyone within a few blocks.
The painters were contacted by Mayor Muriel Bowser and began work early Friday morning, the mayor’s office told CNN. Bowser has officially deemed the section of 16th Street bearing the mural “Black Lives Matter Plaza,” complete with a new street sign.
Bowser told reporters outside of St John’s Church next to Lafayette Park that she and DC Council members were there “as Washingtonians – we simply all want to be here together in peace to demonstrate that in America – you can peacefully assemble, you can bring grievances to your government, and you can demand change.”
“We’re here peacefully as Americans, on American streets, on DC streets,” Bowser said, seeming to reference the recent clash that she has had with the federal government over their attempts to police DC streets.
The DC chapter of the Black Lives Matter Global Network criticized the gesture.
“This is a performative distraction from real policy changes. Bowser has consistently been on the wrong side of BLMDC history. This is to appease white liberals while ignoring our demands. Black Lives Matter means defund the police,” the group tweeted.
Washington has been the site of more than a week’s worth of protests in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. St. John’s Church, the site of President Trump’s roundly criticized photo opp during a peaceful protest, sits along the expanse of road that now bears the BLM message. They will continue this weekend, including one on Saturday that is expected to yield a large turnout.
CORRECTION: This piece has been updated with new information that the painting was commissioned by the mayor of Washington DC.
CNN’s Paul Murphy and Nicky Robertson contributed to this report