Activists who led an effort to paint a “Black Lives Matter” street painting say that the words were removed from a city street after a conservative resident emailed town officials demanding the right to paint a mural in support of President Trump on the same street.
Local news affiliate KRON 4 reported that Redwood City officials moved last week to quietly remove the yellow-painted words “Black Lives Matter” from Redwood City’s Broadway, a stretch of boulevard leading through the city’s downtown area.
Some local activists who worked to get approval for the painting claimed that the decision to remove the painting was made after a local real estate attorney filed a request for a pro-Trump mural to be painted nearby.
“They made the decision to take Black Lives Matter off the street as the first person that proposed the MAGA 2020,” Dan Pease, a Redwood City resident, told KRON 4.
“Black Lives Matter is not a political statement. Black Lives Matter is a human rights issue, it’s a call, it’s a message, it’s a symbol,” Pease added.
The Washington Post confirmed that a local attorney, Maria Rutenburg, had filed a request for a “MAGA 2020” mural to be painted nearby, referring to the president’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. City officials contended to the paper, however, that the painting’s removal was not related to Rutenburg’s request.
“Staff is concerned about public safety issues that may arise from painting murals on its public streets, which could result in driver confusion and traffic accidents,” said a Redwood City spokesperson. “Thus, the existing mural has been removed from Broadway and no further art installation will be authorized on the City’s streets.”
Rutenburg, who is white, told the Post in a statement that her speech was “just as important as BLM.”
“I’m a Trump supporter and the slogan is important to me,” she said, arguing that the Black Lives Matter painting turned the street into “a public forum.”
“Everybody has a chance of saying whatever they feel like,” Rutenburg added. “My speech is just as important as BLM.”
Several cities in the U.S. have approved murals or street paintings in support of Black Americans killed during encounters with police officers in recent weeks in response to massive nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in Minneapolis police custody. One white officer has been charged with second-degree murder in Floyd’s death.