The ongoing battle over so-called “murals” decorating our nation’s streets took yet another strange twist last week. Out in Redwood City, California (population 86,000), city officials had given a local artist named Dan Pease permission to paint a huge Black Lives Matter display on Broadway in the center of town on the 4th of July. That situation held for a while, but as of the morning of Friday, July 18th, the mural had mysteriously vanished in its entirety. You’d be forgiven for suspecting that some opponent of the movement had come in and “defaced” it or painted over it, but that wasn’t the case.
It turns out that the Mayor had ordered the mural to be washed away by city employees. Not because he was disagreeing with the message or trying to make a statement, however. The problem was that he had received a request from another resident who wanted permission to paint a huge MAGA 2020 mural a little way further down the road. Rather than deal with the ensuing crapstorm that would surely erupt between the two sides, the Mayor decided to scrap the entire idea and go back to normal traffic lines on his roads. (CBS San Francisco)
On Thursday, the city washed the sign away after being contacted by local real estate attorney Maria Rutenburg, who said that if the street was now a public forum, she wanted a sign of her own reading “MAGA 2020.”
“I saw “Black Lives Matter” sign appearing on Broadway Street on the asphalt and I figured that’s gonna be a new public space, open for discussion, and I wanted to get my message out, too.” Rutenburg said.
“MAGA” is, of course, short for Make America Great Again, a rallying cry for supporters of President Trump. Faced with the possibility of a political and/or legal fight, the city suddenly decided that Dan Pease’s sign was a traffic hazard that might cause accidents and they removed it in the middle of the night. Pease says he doesn’t consider “Black Lives Matter” to be a political statement but he understands the position the city was in.
We’ve already seen the controversy that erupts whenever someone wants to paint a different “Matter” mural on a street that doesn’t specifically reference “Black Lives.” In New York City we’re still waiting for a decision on a Blue Lives Matter mural. A “Baby Lives Matter” mural in front of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Utah didn’t even last ten hours before it was washed away. But both of those could be viewed as simply competing, positive messages addressing different issues.
Asking to paint President Trump’s signature slogan on the asphalt is another thing entirely. None of the mobs of protesters are going to stand for that for an instant. That mural would have been under attack before it was finished and nobody trying to destroy it would be arrested for a hate crime, either. But the Mayor clearly wanted to avoid the headlines that would ensue and shut the argument down before it had a chance to begin.
So is that a solution that other cities could copy? That’s doubtful in my opinion. It might have worked in this one relatively small city that doesn’t draw much media attention, but can you really see Lori Lightfoot or Keisha Lance Bottoms or Bill de Blasio mildly backing away and erasing the BLM murals? Their collective desire for adoring headlines in the liberal media, combined with their own egos and future political ambitions could never allow them to do it. They’d have to come up with some other excuse as to why a BLM mural is okay, but a MAGA one isn’t. And trust me… they’d think of something, no matter how nonsensical it sounded.