The Phoenix City Council denied a request for a “Black Lives Matter” mural to be painted on downtown streets.

The proposed mural would have included the “Black Lives Matter” statement, with images of Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, and John Lewis. The aim was to paint it near the Talking Sticks Resort Area, the Phoenix City Hall, or the Arizona State Capitol.

The rejection letter, signed by city manager Ed Zuercher, cited current city law that bans any “non-standard markings” on streets.

“Based on existing regulations governing allowable markings in the street,” the letter read, “as well as overriding concerns with safety, risks and federal guidelines for markings on streets, the City of Phoenix cannot accommodate your request.”

The city also denied a request for a law enforcement mural, made by former Phoenix Law Enforcement Association President Mark Spencer. His plan, in partnership with Judicial Watch, would have been to paint, “No one is above the law,” in capital letters in front of the downtown police headquarters.

Rejection letters were sent to both groups requesting the opposing murals, stating that safety concerns and current rules prevent the city from moving forward with the requests.

While Spencer has called the city’s response “reasonable”, Black Lives Matter organizer Gizette Knight has announced a lawsuit is in the works for the city’s denial of the mural request, according to Fox 10 Phoenix.

Racial justice groups local to Phoenix were not in favor of the Black Lives Matter mural, however.

In a press release posted for the September 2nd meeting of the Transportation, Infrastructure and Innovation Subcommittee, the Phoenix chapter of Black Lives Matter wrote,

“Unfortunately for the City of Phoenix a mural is an empty gesture. It will only serve as a scarlet letter of hypocrisy for a city who just gave the most violent police force in the nation a raise of over 20 million dollars. We want our money back, not a mural.”

The press release demanded inclusion in negotiation processes for a new contract with the police union, a reallocation of police funding to other areas of the city, and the firing of all officers “involved in the abuse or death of our community members.”

The Phoenix Black Lives Matter group, like BLM chapters nationwide, are demanding a restructuring of the city’s entire justice system. Nothing less will do.

Likewise, the Black Phoenix Organizing Collective has demanded similar calls for action as opposed to solidarity. “These city murals are an example of the co-optation of protest and resistance that does nothing to serve the people who need it most. Paint on the street won’t stop cops from using Black people for target practice.”

“In order to live safe and dignified lives in Phoenix, Black people demand structural change,” their statement to Fox News Phoenix read. “We don’t want symbolic solidarity – we demand action.”

This past Friday, on 9/11, the Black Phoenix Organizing Collective took to Twitter to call America a “settler colonialist state” and the wars in the Middle East “imperial efforts to police/murder and loot abroad”.

Caitlin Bassett

Caitlin Bassett graduated from Liberty University in 2017 with her Bachelor's in Politics and Policy. She grew up in the great Pacific Northwest, but now calls Northern California home as she pursues ministry school.

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