by WorldTribune Staff, August 12, 2020
Conservatives are fighting back against leftist mayors who have sought to squelch their freedom of expression.
New York City has allowed Black Lives Matter murals while Washington, D.C. gave the green light for Black Lives Matter and “Defund the Police” murals to be painted on city streets, saying it is a form of public art. The same cities, however, have prohibited pro-police and pro-life murals.
Conservative artist Scott LoBaido said New York City officials told him to remove the bright blue line he painted on Hylan Boulevard in Staten Island, Valerie Richardson reported for The Washington Times on Aug. 10.
LoBaido responded: “See you in court.”
LoBaido said he will pursue legal action after the New York City Department of Transportation ordered him to remove his pro-police artwork. He insists he has the same rights as Black Lives Matter. Mayor Bill de Blasio embraced, and even participated in painting, the Black Lives Matter murals.
“As an artist, I think it’s beautiful work, but [de Blasio] did not have a permit to do his street art, and that obviously means that I do not need a permit to do mine. Why should he get a pass and not me?” LoBaido said. “Obviously, they singled out me because I’m a conservative-leaning artist and I do support my military and the men and women in blue uniform.”
In Washington, D.C., Judicial Watch took legal action last month against Mayor Muriel Bowser after city officials refused the group’s request for a permit to paint the Judicial Watch motto “Because No One Is Above the Law” near its headquarters on Independence Avenue Southwest.
Bowser personally oversaw the June 5 creation of the Black Lives Matter mural on 16th Street Northwest. The next day, activists painted “Defund the Police” next to it, creating the message “Black Lives Matter = Defund the Police.”
The activists did not obtain a permit, and D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said in his July 27 motion to dismiss the Judicial Watch lawsuit that there is no such permit. He categorized the 16th Street Northwest display as a form of public art, not expressive messaging.
Last week, D.C. police blocked Students for Life of America from painting “Black Preborn Lives Matter” in front of the Planned Parenthood clinic on Fourth Street Northwest and arrested two activists for chalking on the sidewalk. The group said it had verbal permission from the city, but police said the Metropolitan Police Department “did not issue a permit to paint a message on the street.”
In New York, de Blasio admitted last week that he bypassed the permitting process when approving Black Lives Matter murals in eight locations: three in Manhattan, including one in front of Trump Tower, two in Brooklyn, and one each in Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island.
“That is something again that transcends all normal realities because we are in a moment in history where this had to be said and done, and that’s a decision I made,” the mayor said at an Aug. 3 briefing. “But the normal process continues for anyone who wants to apply.”
LoBaido argued that his blue line, which runs about 850 feet in front of the 122nd Precinct on Staten Island, isn’t political, either.
“That blue line represents two things: It separates anarchy from civilization, and most important, it memorializes the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice defending and protecting our community,” LoBaido told The Washington Times. “Is that a political message? No. It’s an artistic tribute.”
LoBaido’s blue line has been vandalized at least once by a rioter who said she found it “very offensive.”
In Tampa, Florida, city officials oversaw the creation of six “unity murals” with the Black Lives Matter message but scolded a pro-police group for painting “Back the Blue” in front of police headquarters, Richardson noted. Group leaders said they had permission, but the city claimed they had not completed the permitting process.
“The Tampa Police Department expects everyone to express themselves in a lawful manner,” Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said in a press release. “Murals painted in the city roadway need to be approved. We will continue to work with any group to make sure their first amendment rights are heard.”
Tampa’s Black Lives Matter organization is pushing to have the pro-police mural removed.
“When an openly racist slogan is painted illegally in the streets of a city stricken by police brutality, it should be destroyed,” said a Change.org petition started by Victoria Zamitalo.
The mural has since been splattered with tar, but Back the Blue Florida’s Audra Christian said the organization hopes to receive permission soon to repair the damage.
“We just want to show law enforcement we appreciate them. That’s all,” said Christian. She said the group has more than 6,000 members.