Redwood City in the San Francisco Bay area removed a Black Lives Matter mural recently painted onto one of its streets after a request from a supporter of President Donald Trump to paint “MAGA 2020” in an adjacent area as reported by FoxNews.com. The move comes a little over two weeks after the BLM mural was first painted onto the street.
The mural was painted by a Redwood City resident, Dan Pease, during a Fourth of July celebration of public art. The City supplied Pease with the yellow poster paint used in the mural.
Initially the idea was that the mural would stay in place until the paint decayed, as explained by the artist Pease. “Because we were using the poster board paint that would eventually deteriorate over time, my understanding from them was that the mural would last as long as the paint lasted,” Pease said.
The city removed the mural in the middle of the night, rather than wait for the paint to fade away. The Redwood City Council made the decision to remove the mural after another City resident, Maria Rutenburg, requested permission to paint her pro-Trump message on the street. Ms. Rutenburg, an attorney, argued that if city officials were allowing political messages onto city streets then opposing viewpoints also had to be represented. Otherwise, public officials were promoting private political expression and a limited private agenda reported the DailyMail.com. Ms Rutenburg explained, “Governments cannot and should not get to pick and choose who should be allowed to speak. Now that the cities open up asphalts as public forums, everyone with any political message is free to write their own. I, for one, would like to paint MAGA 2020.” She continued, “At a time like this, it’s especially important that we allow free and open political discussion for all sides, not just BLM.”
Similar messages have appeared on city streets around the country in the weeks following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, while he was in the custody of Minneapolis police. In New York City a similar mural was defaced three times since it was painted onto Fifth Avenue.
Redwood City Council’s official reason for the mural’s removal was that it was a potential traffic hazard. This argument was not considered when initial permission was given by the council for the mural to be painted. The council has stated that no new art projects will be authorized for the City’s streets.
Pease was philosophical about the entire experience. “I have no hard feelings to the city council,’ he said. “I am disappointed but, at the same time, I am very grateful that they allowed me to put that message on Broadway.” He defended the mural by claiming that its message was universal. “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.
Black Lives Matter is an organization that has its own website and political agenda and accepts financial donations from the public.