The new "Black Lives Matter" mural on a Washington, D.C. street is no small thing, as satellite photography reveals it can be seen from space. On Friday, the Twitter account Planet Labs shared a picture showing the newly painted words from a stellar altitude. Still, activists wonder if the city and the country will live up to these over-sized words.
Planet Labs is a company that seeks to "image the entire Earth every day and make global change visible," and Friday's photos certainly accomplished that. In the same city where military helicopters flew low over peaceful protesters last week, satellite images now show the yellow block letters reading "BLACK LIVES MATTER" painted along more than a city block's worth of Sixteenth Street. Beyond it, however, the White House campus is surrounded by more fences, barricades and security than ever.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered the "Black Lives Matter" mural painted on Sixteenth Street this week in response to the ongoing protests and divisive rhetoric of public officials. Her Chief of Staff, John Falcicchio, issued a statement leaving no doubt that the mural was a direct response to Monday evening's unrest, when military and police personnel used rubber bullets, tear gas and later helicopters to disperse a peaceful protest so that President Donald Trump could get a triumphant photo-op across the street.
"There was a dispute this week about whose street this is. Mayor Bowser wanted to make it abundantly clear that this is DC's street and to honor demonstrators who [were] peacefully protesting on Monday evening," Falcicchio tweeted. Mayor Bowser herself added: "We want to call attention today to making sure our nation is more fair and more just and that black lives and black humanity matter in our nation... 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."
As grand as the gesture is, it is getting mixed responses from actual Black Lives Matter protesters — even within the city. The Washington, D.C. chapter of the Black Lives Matter Global Network issued a response on Twitter, saying: "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."
Protests in D.C. and other parts of the country continue, in many cases escalating into violence between demonstrators and police. Previously radical policy suggestions such as drastically defunding or altogether abolishing police departments in major cities are now getting serious consideration in the public discourse.