D.C. Mayor Changes Street Name to “Black Lives Matter Plaza”


Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

By Jessica Fetrow

After more than a week of protests surrounding the death of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man killed by police on May 25, Washington, D.C. has renamed a portion of 16th Street NW preceding the White House to Black Lives Matter Plaza. In addition to the street’s renaming, the words “Black Lives Matter” were painted in a large, yellow font across the pavement of the two blocks by city workers and volunteers.

“The section of 16th street in front of the White House is now officially ‘Black Lives Matter Plaza,’” said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in a tweet accompanied by a video of the updated street sign being put into place early Friday morning. 

Since Floyd’s death in late May, predominantly peaceful protests with some instances of violence and looting have been held in every state in a fight against racial discrimination and prejudice. A Monmouth University poll released on June 2 found that 57% of Americans find the anger that caused the protests following Floyd’s death to be “fully justified,” while  21% of Americans find the anger to be “partially justified.” However, only 17% find the actions of the protesters, “including the burning of a police precinct,” to be “fully justified,” while 37% find it “partially justified.”

The District of Columbia, in particular, has come under scrutiny in response to the protests, following President Trump’s controversial statements and suggested use of force against the protesters. On Tuesday, Trump crossed Lafayette Square to St. John’s Episcopal Church, after the forceful removal of protesters, to make some brief statements.

“We have the greatest country in the world. Thank you very much everybody. We’re gonna keep it nice and safe,” said Trump while displaying a bible outside of the church. 

The street’s name change followed a recent discourse over whether the street fell under federal or local jurisdiction. 

“There was a dispute this week about whose street this is,” said the mayor’s chief of staff John J. Falcicchio in a tweet on Friday. “Mayor Bowser wanted to make it abundantly clear that this is DC’s street and to honor demonstrators who peacefully [protested] on Monday evening.”

While the recent actions of the local government have been mostly met with high praise, many are questioning the authenticity of the gesture. In particular, the revised street name and street art has been met with some criticism from the Black Lives Matter Global Network’s chapter in D.C., dismissing it as 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,” said the official Twitter account of Black Lives Matter D.C. shortly after the unveiling of the street design and renaming. 

The renamed section of 16th St. NW has already been updated on various map applications and listings, such as Google Maps, and the street art can easily be seen through satellite images.

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