New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio grabbed a roller Thursday to paint “Black Lives Matter" in front of the namesake Manhattan tower of President Donald Trump, who tweeted last week that the street message would be “a symbol of hate.”
De Blasio was flanked by his wife, Chirlane McCray, and the Rev. Al Sharpton as he helped paint the racial justice rallying cry in giant yellow letters on Fifth Avenue in front of Trump Tower. Activists watching chanted, “Whose streets? Our streets!”
“When we say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ there is no more American statement, there is no more patriotic statement because there is no America without Black America,” de Blasio said. “We are acknowledging the truth of ourselves as Americans by saying ‘Black Lives Matter.’ We are righting a wrong.”
The mayor announced the plan to paint “Black Lives Matter” in front of Trump Tower last month after earlier saying the slogan would be painted on streets at several locations around the city. Trump responded via Twitter that the message would denigrate “this luxury Avenue” and “further antagonize New York’s Finest.” De Blasio tweeted back that Black Lives Matter is "a movement to recognize and protect the lives of Black people.”
Rahima Torrence, 20, who was among the people slapping yellow paint onto Fifth Avenue, said that even though the message might be a symbol, “it's the beginning of something more.” She said the location in front of Trump's own skyscraper “shows that we matter and it shows to him that you can't ignore us.”
Washington, D.C. was the first U.S. city to get a giant yellow “Black Lives Matter” message when Mayor Muriel Bowser had it painted on the street leading to the White House. Bowser said the painting was intended to show solidarity with Americans outraged over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Trump lived in Trump Tower before he took office as president but has spent little time there since. He changed his official residence from New York to Florida last year. His business empire is still headquartered there.
Associated Press video journalist Joe Frederick contributed to this report.