Taunting a President
This morning, June 5, 2020, the president woke to a new view outside his north facing windows.
For the past week he has sparred with D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, pushing federal troops from at least sixteen law enforcement and military agencies into the streets of her jurisdiction, and blaming her for protest violence.
On Monday, in search of a photo-op to present the president powerfully and without consulting the D.C. police, Attorney General Bill Barr ordered park police and secret service to use whatever means necessary to clear Lafayette Square. The resulting violent expulsion of protesters using tear gas, batons, and pepper spray to clear the square, and then hovering helicopters to corral (kettle) protesters in neighborhoods, raised the specter of banana republics and authoritarian actions in other countries condemned by past presidents.
After calling for removal of unidentified federal forces from Washington D.C.’s streets for several days, (NVA #129: Refusal of assistance to enforcement officials, #145: General administrative noncooperation, and #150: Noncooperation by constituent governmental units) Mayor Bowser employed several large-scale, symbolic, nonviolent actions of her own to pressure the president (NVA #31: “Haunting” officials, and #32: Taunting Officials) to leave the policing to local law enforcement.
She renamed two blocks of 16th Street NW, between K and H, north of the White House “Black Lives Matter Plaza” (NVA #27: New signs and names and #29: Symbolic reclamation) and employing city work crews and local artists to paint BLACK LIVES MATTER D.C. in bright yellow on the road (NVA #12: Earthwriting and #26: Paint as Protest).
The actions landed with impact, spreading swiftly across social media and national news sources.
As a symbolic action, directed specifically at getting under a single individual’s skin, decorating the President’s view will likely succeed. But as an end point, a conclusion to protester efforts, Mayor Bowser’s actions on their own are insufficient.
Washington D.C. still has to ban shooting at moving vehicles from the eight policies that can decrease police violence by 72% and the mayor’s recent budget proposal increases funding for police by 3.3% rather than defunding law enforcement and redirecting the monies toward social services and enhanced training for mental health, drug addiction, and social services that Black Lives Matter activists demand.
That said it is a rare thing these days to see an elected official taking it to the current occupant of the White House. Frankly, it is a relief.
Now it is on her. It is on us. We must follow through. We must make things better for our fellow citizens.
Black lives matter. They always have.
Find a way to get involved, to stand with them.
Nonviolent actions employed:
NVA #129: Refusal of assistance to enforcement officials
NVA #145: General administrative noncooperation
NVA #150: Noncooperation by constituent governmental units
NVA #31: “Haunting” officials
NVA #32: Taunting Officials
NVA #27: New signs and names
NVA #29: Symbolic reclamation
NVA #12: Earthwriting
NVA #26: Paint as Protest