President Donald Trump criticized New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to paint a Black Lives Matter mural on the street outside Trump Tower, saying the effort will antagonize police and will be “denigrating this luxury Avenue.”
“Maybe our GREAT Police, who have been neutralized and scorned by a mayor who hates & disrespects them, won’t let this symbol of hate be affixed to New York’s greatest street,” Trump said in a tweet on Wednesday. “Spend this money fighting crime instead!”
The missive was the latest in a series of racially-charged statements by the president amid ongoing national protests over racial equality. Trump has increasingly denounced the demonstrations — which have been largely peaceful — pointing instead to instances of looting and vandalism, while casting himself as a protector of “law and order.”
In recent days, the president tweeted a video of an armed white couple confronting protesters in St. Louis, and another — subsequently deleted — of what appeared to be his supporters chanting “white power” at political opponents at a retirement community in Florida. He’s also argued that Confederate monuments should not be removed, saying he believes such actions are a slippery slope that could damage understanding of the nation’s heritage.
The New York City mayor discussed his plan Tuesday morning to paint the area along 5th Avenue between 56th and 57th streets — mirroring a similar mural in Washington near the White House — during an appearance on MSNBC. City officials in Washington renamed a stretch of 16th Street Northwest as “Black Lives Matter Plaza” after federal officials forcibly cleared protesters demonstrating against police violence out of the area before Trump visited a church that had been damaged.
“We’re going to take this moment in history and amplify it by taking the Black Lives Matter symbolism and putting it all over this city, including right in front of Trump Tower,” de Blasio said. “It’s an important message to the whole nation, and obviously we want the president to hear it, because he’s never shown respect for those three words.”
De Blasio also responded directly to Trump’s tweet, suggesting that his city’s police department would support the action.
The Black Lives Matter movement grew out of a series of high-profile cases in which Black Americans died during interactions with police, and the movement has seen renewed support and attention in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd while in the custody of police in Minneapolis. Large companies have posted the slogan on their buildings amid nationwide protests, and the NBA is planning to paint “Black Lives Matter” on basketball courts when the league resumes play this month, according to ESPN.
A CBS News/YouGov poll released late last month found that 60% of Americans agree with the ideas expressed by the Black Lives Matter movement.
Trump’s concern over the proposed mural comes as his signature Manhattan tower is already struggling to retain retail tenants and maintain condo prices amid heightened security and political controversies.