President Donald Trump on Wednesday called New York City’s decision to paint ‘Black Lives Matter’ on Fifth Avenue a “symbol of hate,” rebuking his home town’s embrace of a rallying cry that has stirred nationwide protests against racism.
Trump also criticized cuts to the city’s police department and wrote on Twitter that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to paint Black Lives Matter on the street outside Trump Tower is “denigrating this luxury Avenue”.
“This will further antagonize New York’s Finest, who LOVE New York & vividly remember the horrible BLM chant, ‘Pigs In A Blanket, Fry ‘Em Like Bacon,’” Trump wrote. “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. Spend this money fighting crime instead!”
De Blasio told MSNBC earlier Wednesday morning that the street painting would be completed outside Trump Tower in a matter of days. The mayor’s office ordered the letters painted on Fifth Avenue last week.
“Obviously we want the president to hear it because he’s never shown respect for those three words,” de Blasio said. “When he hears Black Lives Matter, he presents a horrible negative reality of something that doesn’t exist, and he misses the underlying meaning that we’re saying we have to honor the role of African Americans in our history and our society.”
Activists said Trump’s tweet distracted from efforts to combat police brutality.
“The only symbol of hate is President Trump. This is just his latest attempt to brazenly push hate and try to divert our attention from the urgent civil rights issues facing our communities, from violent policing to the pandemic,” Carolyn Martinez-Class, a spokesperson for the New York City organization Communities United for Police Reform, said in a statement to POLITICO.
The painting of Black Lives Matter on Fifth Avenue follows the passing of the city’s budget in the early hours of Wednesday morning. While the $88.19 billion budget cuts funding to the police department, reform activists were unhappy and said the reductions did not go far enough in reducing the NYPD’s role in the city.
Martinez-Class called on the mayor to “go beyond performative gestures of support and actually make changes to abusive, racist policing in New York City to show that Black lives really matter to him.”
In the weeks since the police killing of George Floyd ignited mass demonstrations opposing police violence, Trump has not adopted the message of Black Lives Matter protesters.
In mid-June, he told Fox News that he thought many demonstrators who took to the streets were unaware what they were protesting for. Trump has not said the words “black lives matter,” and has instead focused on defending law enforcement from accusations of systemic racism.
Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered Black Lives Matter to be painted near the White House in June, as well as ordering a nearby street to be renamed “Black Lives Matter Plaza” in a rebuke to the president. That move was panned by some activists who characterized as an empty gesture without tangible steps to reduce police funding.