Black Lives Matter Plaza

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Black Lives Matter Plaza
Black Lives Matter Plaza Northwest
Part of the mural reading "Black Lives Matter" painted in June 2020
Part of the mural reading "Black Lives Matter" painted in June 2020
NamesakeBlack Lives Matter
Maintained byDDOT
LocationDowntown Washington, DC
Postal code20006
Nearest metro stationWMATA Metro Logo.svg WMATA Blue.svg WMATA Orange.svg WMATA Silver.svg McPherson Square
Coordinates38°54′3.506″N 77°2′11.548″W / 38.90097389°N 77.03654111°W / 38.90097389; -77.03654111Coordinates: 38°54′3.506″N 77°2′11.548″W / 38.90097389°N 77.03654111°W / 38.90097389; -77.03654111
North end US 29 (K Street, NW)
South endH Street, NW at Lafayette Square of President's Park
CommissionedJune 5, 2020

Black Lives Matter Plaza (officially Black Lives Matter Plaza Northwest) is a two-block-long pedestrian section of 16th Street NW in Downtown Washington, D.C.[2][3] The plaza was renamed by Mayor Muriel Bowser on June 5, 2020, after the Department of Public Works painted the words "Black Lives Matter" in 35-foot (11 m) yellow capital letters, along with the flag of Washington, D.C., as part of the George Floyd protests.[4][5][6]


On June 5, 2020, during the George Floyd protests, the DC Public Works Department painted the words "Black Lives Matter" in 35-foot-tall (11 m) yellow capital letters on 16th Street NW on the north of Lafayette Square, part of President's Park near the White House, with the assistance of the MuralsDC program of the DC Department of Public Works, with the DC flag accompanying the text.[7][8][9] On the same date, the Mayor of the District of Columbia, Muriel Bowser announced that part of the street outside of the White House had been officially renamed to Black Lives Matter Plaza posted with a street sign.[10][11][12] When announcing the renaming, she said, "Breonna Taylor, on your birthday, let us stand with determination."[13] In a press conference, she explained, "There are people who are craving to be heard and to be seen and to have their humanity recognized. We had the opportunity to send that message loud and clear on a very important street in our city."[14] In October 2020, the DC City Council voted to keep the name permanently. [15]

The naming of the street has been seen by many as not only a reaction to the protests but part of it.[16]

Mayor Bowser's decision to rename the segment of 16th Street NW as a public gathering place, or plaza, followed DC precedent for the commemorative renaming of city streets,[17] under the Code of the District of Columbia.[18][19]


Black Lives Matter Plaza Street Sign. The signs are black with white lettering. This style of sign is unique in DC to Black Lives Matter Plaza.

The plaza is a two-block-long section of 16th Street NW, south of K St NW, extending through I St, and north of H Street NW on the north side of President's Park on the south side of the Downtown neighborhood in Northwest D.C..[20][21][22][23] Vehicular entry is blocked by barricades on the right-hand side of the street, though emergency vehicles have access on the left side. Cross-traffic is uninterrupted on K and I streets.


Park police[edit]

The United States Park Police reacted to the public gatherers by erecting a temporary seven-foot-tall (2.1 m) chain-link security barrier on the north boundary of the park, which was used to post messages by the protesters.[24]

Community response[edit]

The Defund the police addition by activists to the mural

The group Black Lives Matter DC criticized the renaming by calling the acts a "performative distraction from real policy changes." On June 6, BLM protesters painted "Defund the Police" in the same yellow block letters that the city had painted "Black Lives Matter." Protesters also painted black the 3 stars on top of the DC City Crest so that from the air the lettering on the street reads "BLACK LIVES MATTER = DEFUND THE POLICE." The stars on the DC crest were subsequently re-added.[25][26][27]

Legal challenge[edit]

A group of religious organizations, including Warriors for Christ and Special Forces of Liberty, filed a federal lawsuit on June 12, 2020 against Bowser over the renaming of the plaza.[28] The Warriors for Christ is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a "anti-LGBTQ hate group".[29] The suit contends that Black Lives Matter is a "cult for secular humanism" and a religious organization, and thus Bowser's action of renaming the plaza an endorsement of a religion violating the separation of church and state. The suit calls for the mural to be removed and the plaza to be renamed to a more secular name, as well as the display of different banners giving equal time for other groups.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Google (April 18, 2021). "Black Lives Matter Plaza" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
  2. ^ Asmelash, Leah (June 6, 2020). "Washington's New Black Lives Matter Street Mural Is Captured on Satellite". CNN. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  3. ^ Johnson, Martin (June 6, 2020). "Bowser Addresses Record Crowd at Black Lives Matter Plaza". The Hill. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  4. ^ Johnson, Ted (June 6, 2020). "DC Mayor Chides Donald Trump at Largest Protest Since Death of George Floyd: 'We Pushed the Army Away from Our City'". Deadline. Archived from the original on June 7, 2020. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  5. ^ Aratani, Lauren (June 6, 2020). "Washington Mayor Stands Up to Trump and Unveils Black Lives Matter Mural". The Guardian. London. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  6. ^ Mamiit, Aaron (June 9, 2020). "Google Maps, Bing Maps add marker for Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington D.C." Digital Trends. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  7. ^ Austermuhle, Mark; Cheslow, Daniella (June 5, 2020). "DC Renames Intersection near White House 'Black Lives Matter Plaza' Paints 35-Foot Message on Street". DCist. Archived from the original on June 5, 2020. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
  8. ^ Barnes, Sophie; Finch, Justin (June 5, 2020). "City of DC Painting 'Black Lives Matter' on Street Near White House". Washington, DC: WRC-TV. Archived from the original on June 5, 2020. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
  9. ^ Willingham, AJ (June 5, 2020). "Washington DC Paints a Giant 'Black Lives Matter' Message on the Road to the White House". CNN. Archived from the original on June 5, 2020. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
  10. ^ Barnes, Sophia; Finch, Justin (June 5, 2020). "City of DC Names Street to White House After Black Lives Matter; Emblazons Name on Road". Washington, DC: WRC-TV. Archived from the original on June 5, 2020. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
  11. ^ Wu, Nicholas (June 5, 2020). "DC Renames Street near White House 'Black Lives Matter Plaza' to Honor George Floyd Protests". USA Today. Archived from the original on June 5, 2020. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
  12. ^ Heavey, Susan; Gorman, Steve (June 7, 2020). "'A Part of History': Calm Prevails over DC's Biggest George Floyd Protest". Reuters. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  13. ^ "DC Mayor Inaugurates 'Black Lives Matter' Plaza near White House". Al Jazeera. Archived from the original on June 6, 2020. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  14. ^ "Mayor inaugurates 'Black Lives Matter Plaza' in DC with giant yellow letters". France 24. Associated Press. June 6, 2020. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  15. ^ "D.C. Council votes to permanently keep name 'Black Lives Matter Plaza'". WJLA. October 19, 2020.
  16. ^ Chayka, Kyle (June 9, 2020). "The Mimetic Power of D.C.'s Black Lives Matter Mural". The New Yorker. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  17. ^ Oprysko, Caitlin (June 5, 2020). "D.C. Government Dubs Intersection Where Police Cleared Peaceful Protesters 'Black Lives Matter Plaza'". Politico. Archived from the original on June 7, 2020. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  18. ^ "Chapter 2. Street and Alley Closing and Acquisition Procedures". Code of the District of Columbia. DC Law Library. 2020. Archived from the original on June 7, 2020. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  19. ^ Dwyer, Colin (June 5, 2020). "'Black Lives Matter Plaza,' Across From White House, Is Christened By D.C. Leaders". Retrieved June 11, 2020.
  20. ^ "Google Maps adds 'Black Lives Matter Plaza' after giant mural completed in Washington". Seattle: KIRO-TV. Cox Media Group National Content Desk. June 6, 2020. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  21. ^ "Black Lives Matter Plaza". OpenStreetMap.
  22. ^ Belfiore, Emily (June 5, 2020). "DC Mayor Changes Street Name to Black Lives Matter Plaza". E! Online. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  23. ^ Ricker, Thomas (June 8, 2020). "Apple Maps updated with giant Black Lives Matter DC mural". The Verge. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
  24. ^ "Massive fence erected around Lafayette Park becomes gallery of protest art". Fox 5 DC. Associated Press. June 8, 2020.
  25. ^ Stephanie Ramirez (June 7, 2020). "DC Won't Remove 'Defund The Police' Street Art next to Black Lives Matter Mural". Fox 5 DC. Washington, DC: WTTG-TV. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  26. ^ Brewster, Jack (June 5, 2020). "DC Mayor Designates 'Black Lives Matter Plaza'— But BLM Organizers Say It's Not Enough". Forbes. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  27. ^ Dugyala, Rishika (June 7, 2020). "DC Mayor Won't Play Art Critic". Politico. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  28. ^ a b Pomeroy, Courtney (June 12, 2020). "D.C. faces First Amendment lawsuit over Black Lives Matter Plaza". WJLA-TV. Retrieved June 13, 2020.
  29. ^ "Anti-LGBTQ". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved January 8, 2021.

External links[edit]