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“It’s not enough”: Activists say Black Lives Matter murals are an empty gesture

More than a dozen other cities have since adopted the practice. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was among the first to follow suit, ordering Black Lives Matter to paint on Fifth Avenue, directly across from Trump Tower. Al Revpton and members of Central Park Five took part in the reveal.

Still, activists say that in most places political statements have not aligned those statements of support with the kind of policy changes that would tangibly improve people’s lives. As coronavirus cases continue to increase, black and latino patients are increasing include most cases and deaths. Since Floyd’s assassination in late May, more African Americans have been killed by police officers, fueling the protest movement against police brutality.

State and national legislative leaders, meanwhile, have not responded with the kind of urgency required by the clashing crises. Congress has not adopted an aid package since May, while more than 30 million Americans could be without income if unemployment relief is not extended in late July. A rental crisis remains on the horizon as more than a third of Americans missed rent and mortgage payments at the beginning of the month. The black and Latino populations are most affected by these disasters, as unemployment remains disproportionately high in both communities.

That reality prompted DC activists to immediately paint a counter-report on the street next to Mayor Bowser’s Black Lives Matter mural: “Defund the police.” Black Lives Matter DC has also had one since then statement condemning the mural and call it “performative”.

“The people who painted that … they know full well that it wasn’t really Muriel Bowser,” said Sean Blackmon, an organizer of the DC Police Stop Terror Project, which runs police violence across the country. “And what that actually says is,” If you think Black Lives Matter, Muriel Bowser, then you have to cheat the police. “

“They paint the letters of your movement on the street and are praised all over the country, but they are not willing to look you in the eye and talk about solutions,” said Jessica Byrd, co-founder of Three Point Strategies and a organizer with the movement for black lives. “I mean, it takes an incredible amount of cognitive dissonance to believe that a mural is enough and that it can replace a conversation about structural change in the city.”

In some municipalities, leaders have answered calls for change from protesters. Minneapolis, the catalyst for the wave of anti-racism protests around the world, a ballot paper advanced that would dissolve the city police and establish a new security and violence prevention force. So far, it is the only city to have dissolved the law since Floyd’s death.

But as pressure from local organizers and national outcry grows, a growing number of state and local leaders have announced plans to cut police budgets for the next fiscal year and redirect funds to communities of color. Los Angeles City Council cut $ 150 million on its police budget. San Francisco has taken similar measures and has pledged to cut back on the city’s police budget and reallocate resources to programs for the local black community.

Defenders of the murals say that art still has a special place in social movements, and the murals are not intended as a substitute for policy changes. Some protesters have established Black Lives Matter art themselves. However, it is a different dynamic, Pierre explained, because there is a unique concept behind the work.

“I think when activists go out and they make those symbols, and they’ve done the work of really trying to uplift black people in their community, that’s very different. Because they come from the perspective of love. And it’s kind of a sign of things to come, ”she said. “We can’t stop at paintings. We really need to change the system, especially the way black people and the police interact. ”