On Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that "Black Lives Matter" will be painted on one prominent street in each of the city's five boroughs. The streets will be renamed as well, presumably following the model of Washington D.C.'s new "Black Lives Matter Plaza." Many activists are rolling their eyes at this symbolic gesture.
"A proposal put on the table was to name streets in each borough and to paint the words on the streets of this city. In each borough, at a crucial location," de Blasio said on Tuesday, according to a report by CBS News New York. "What will be clear in the street name and on the streets of our city is that message that now our city must fully, fully, deeply feel – and this nation must as well – that Black Lives Matter."
The move seems to be an imitation of Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser's Black Lives Matter mural, which was painted in 35-foot yellow letters that could be seen from outer space. Those words were stamped right beside the White House, but even then many activists said that they would rather have concrete policy changes in their community than renamed streets.
De Blasio is offering some more practical changes to his city's police system as well, though so far protesters have not been pleased by his offers of compromise. Amid calls to "defund the police," de Blasio has promised to make cuts to the NYPD's budget, but has not said by how much. Some prominent community organizers have called for the department's $6 billion budget to be reduced by at least $1 billion, but on Monday de Blasio said that was not likely.
"Many members of the City Council, as well as the protesters, have called for a $1 billion cut. Is that in the realm of reality?" CBS2 reporter Marcia Kramer asked the mayor. He responded: "No, no, no, but something substantial."
De Blasio has previously signaled his intention to drop the budget by about $124 million — taking the funding from an NYPD program for summer youth employment. Protesters want to see much more money taken from the department, both to prevent police from being over-militarized and to fund more practical community programs and social justice initiatives.
While de Blasio may be holding back, this is reportedly the first time he has ever agreed to reduce the NYPD's budget at all during his time as mayor. Police budgets are a contentious topic even at the best of times in New York City. NYC's new budget is due on June 30, so protesters will likely have a better idea of how much de Blasio plans to cut by the end of the month.