We have transformed the mural into a monumentMayor Muriel Bowser
Black Lives Matter Plaza has just reopened, after a four-month process that changed it from a large painted street mural into a permanent installation.
The original Black Lives Matter Plaza, created in June 2020, opened the entire two-block stretch to pedestrians. This permanent reconstruction is multi-use, with the middle lane for pedestrians and the side lanes for vehicles.
The reconstruction process
To install the permanent lettering, the street was completely torn up, and then the letters were carefully measured out and concrete poured around the letter shapes.
The letters were created from blocks of yellow thermoplastic paint on top of bonded concrete.
Cobblestone pavers were installed over the rest of the Plaza:
The project cost $4.8 million, and another $3 million will be spent on enhancing the street as a public space, including benches, trees, lighting, and commemorative works.
The original mural
The original mural was created in June 2020 by Mayor Bowser’s administration after the death of George Floyd and subsequent protests, including tear-gassing protestors in Lafayette Park, and federal forces without visible ID’s patrolling city streets. Bowser said, “we sent a strong message that Black Lives Matter, and that power has always been and always will be with well-meaning people.” The mural covered two prominent blocks of 16th Street just north of Lafayette Square, visible from the White House.
The mural was a complete surprise, created overnight by the Department of Public Works and MuralsDC, and the Plaza immediately became a spot for gathering. From June 2020 when it was created, until July 2021 when in closed for reconstruction, the Plaza was constantly filled with major social justice activities or individuals and families enjoying the access to such a meaningful public space.
Here are just a few of the times that the Plaza has been used for social justice and other public activities:
Protests and rallies
In the early days of the protests in response to the murder of George Floyd, crowds frequently took a knee on the street:
At a few of the protests, like this one on 6/7/20. the Plaza was completely covered with people:
The “Good Trouble” rally for voting rights, 7/17/21, inspired by John Lewis.
Vigils and memorials
Vigil after John Lewis’s death, 7/18/20:
Interfaith service to honor COVID deaths, 10/19/20:
Juneteenth celebration, 7/19/21:
Creating art for racial justice
Filming “The Freedom Side” by OnRaé LaTeal, 8/16/20:
Sunset & Chill filming a video in support of Black Lives Matter:
Artists for Racial Justice filming on 8/23/20:
We Act Radio filming a tribute to Malcolm X, 5/14/21:
Shanna Lim filming a performance for racial equality, 8/23/20:
The Plaza become a common place for journalists to use for broadcasts, especially foreign journalists who did not have press access to the White House grounds, but could position themselves on the Plaza with the White House in the background.
On election night, 11/3/20:
Moments after the election was called for Joe Biden on 11/7/20:
The Plaza become the spot where everyone knew to come on important dates, such as the night of the 2020 election:
Crowds filled the Plaza shortly after the Biden victory was declared on 11/7/20:
We hope that however the street has been transformed, it will retain the spirit of the original, and memorialize the struggles and the power of striving for racial equality.
George Floyd protests – part 1
George Floyd protests – part 2
Getting in Good Trouble to Protect Voting Rights
Dance as Protest, on Black Lives Matter Plaza