An intersection near the White House where federal law enforcement used chemical irritants and flash-bang grenades earlier this week to clear a peaceful demonstration against racial injustice has a new name: Black Lives Matter Plaza.
The designation from the District of Columbia's government comes after more than a week of protests over the death of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man who was killed in the custody of police last week.
The protests have in some instances turned violent, including last weekend in the District of Columbia, where an alphabet soup of federal and local law enforcement and military forces were called in to quell bouts of unrest and restore order.
Although more recent protests have remained mostly peaceful, the White House has grown increasingly fortified in recent days amid and effort to keep demonstrations away from the executive mansion. Protesters have nonetheless gathered near the White House every night this week in groups numbering in the thousands.
The Trump administration has faced significant criticism this week for its decision to use aggressive tactics on Monday to clear Lafayette Park of apparently peaceful protesters so that the president could cross it on foot to visit a historic church where rioters had set a small fire the night before. Trump, holding a Bible, posed briefly for photographs with members of his administration before returning to the White House, a photo opportunity that was widely criticized by religious leaders and a bipartisan swath of lawmakers.
On Friday, in addition to unveiling “Black Lives Matter Plaza,” honoring the national movement aimed at combating systemic racism and police killings of black Americans, the District also teamed up with local artists to adorn a stretch of 16th Street NW in front of the White House in giant yellow lettering bearing the group’s name.
While it’s not abnormal for the city to adopt new ceremonial names for streets around the District, such treatment is typically reserved for jabs at despotic foreign governments.
In the most recent high-profile example, residents of D.C.’s Foggy Bottom and West End neighborhoods attempted to rename a stretch of roadway in front of the Saudi Embassy after Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist and critic of the Saudi royal family who was murdered in 2018 by Saudi operatives in the country’s Istanbul consulate.
The effort hit a roadblock in the form of a D.C. law barring public spaces “from being named in honor of any person who is alive or has been deceased for less than two years,” according to WTOP.
Earlier that year, the city designated the stretch of Wisconsin Avenue on which the Russian Embassy sits as “Boris Nemtsov Plaza,” in honor of a slain opposition leader.
And several blocks up 16th Street from the newly unveiled “Black Lives Matter Plaza” sits “Andrei Sakharov Plaza,” an homage to one of the best-known dissidents of the Soviet Union in front of the former Soviet Embassy and the current home of the Russian ambassador.
There have been similar efforts to rib foreign governments and honor dissidents with ceremonial street names in the nation’s capital.
Then-President Barack Obama shut down an effort in 2016 to rename the street in front of the Chinese Embassy after an imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate. And in 2015, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introduced legislation that would name the street in front of the newly reopened Cuban Embassy about two miles up 16th Street from the White House after a prominent opponent of Fidel Castro’s regime.
Source: Politics, Policy, Political News Top Stories https://www.politico.com/news/2020/06/05/black-lives-matter-plaza-washington-dc-303606