Anti-racism protest signs, murals destined for U.S. Smithsonian

Days into nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd, demonstrators began to fill a tall fence in front of the White House with posters, flowers, paintings, and photos in honor of black men, women, and children who have lost their lives at the hands of police.
Placed on the recently renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, the tributes have created a spontaneous memorial that is now being collected for a more permanent home at the Smithsonian Institution.
Graffiti artists and mural painters have designed visuals on the site where many protesters congregate to begin nearly nightly demonstrations in Washington.
Memorials have also popped up in New York where muralists decorated the city's Chelsea neighborhood, as well as cities around the world, including Nairobi, Karachi, and Berlin.
Block after block in Washington, office buildings and windows of upscale restaurants that normally cater to lobbyists and business executives have been sheathed in plywood to protect against the short-lived outbursts of arson and vandalism that struck the city’s center earlier this month.

Levi Robinson, one of the many artists who got the call to design and paint atop the plywood, said he stumbled onto the idea of making his depiction of military medics.
“I decided to show black medics who serve in the military after speaking with some examples who were on-site handing out water began to tell me their stories,” said Robinson of his piece adorning a boarded-up exterior window of a restaurant on Black Lives Matter Plaza.
Aaron Bryant, photography and social protest historian and curator at the African American History and Culture Museum, said unlike most of the protest artwork of the 1960s civil rights era, which were made by professional artists and graphic designers, this moment’s artwork is different.
“Today, people are making signs by hand and running out of the door. There is more diversity in the signs you see,” said Bryant, who is leading the team of curators collecting plywood murals, signs, and objects such as gas canisters that might one day act as a portal to this moment in history. His museum is one of several making up the Smithsonian Institution on the National Mall in Washington.
“It’s hard to talk about this moment’s artwork with one common denominator, but what I see is this idea of humanity and community. People coming together to make positive, social change, messages that will last for generations.”
The Washington-based P.A.I.N.T.S Institute, in partnership with the Downtown DC Business Improvement District, organized some 42 artists and volunteers, including Robinson, to design protestor-inspired murals on the Black Lives Matter Plaza, an expansion of similar furnishings in downtown Washington.
Foot traffic, thinned by a two-month coronavirus lockdown, can be spotted taking selfies with some of the roughly 27 murals depicting black faces wearing masks that read, “Let Us Breath” and “God is Love.”
Once such first-time public mural artist, Jemn Napper, said she hopes her downtown Washington pieces ultimately help people realize that “even though we may have our differences, we can all play a part to come together and create change.”
 The death of Rayshard Brooks, a black man killed by a white police officer in Atlanta on Friday, was a homicide caused by gunshot wounds to the back, the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s office said on Sunday.
Brooks’ death reignited protests in Atlanta after days of worldwide demonstrations against racism and police brutality prompted by the death of George Floyd, an African American, in Minneapolis police custody on May 25.
An autopsy conducted on Sunday showed that Brooks, 27, died from blood loss and organ injuries caused by two gunshot wounds, an investigator for the medical examiner said in a statement. The manner of his death was a homicide, the statement said.
Brooks’ fatal encounter with police came after an employee of a Wendy’s restaurant in Atlanta phoned authorities to say that someone had fallen asleep in his car in the restaurant’s drive-through lane.
Caught on the officer’s body camera and a surveillance camera, the encounter seemed friendly at first, as Brooks cooperated with a sobriety test and talked about his daughter’s birthday.
“I watched the interaction with Mr. Brooks and it broke my heart,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said on CNN. “This was not confrontational. This was a guy that you were rooting for.”

People watch as a Wendy’s burns following a rally against racial inequality and the police shooting death of Rayshard Brooks, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. June 13, 2020. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
But when an officer moved to arrest him, Brooks struggled with him and another officer at the scene before breaking free and running across the parking lot with what appears to be a police Taser in his hand, a bystander’s video showed.
A video from the restaurant’s cameras shows Brooks turning as he runs and possibly aiming the Taser at the pursuing officers before one of them fires his gun and Brooks falls.
Atlanta’s police chief, Erika Shields, resigned over the shooting. The officer suspected of killing Brooks was fired, and the other officer involved in the incident, also white, was put on administrative leave.


As demonstrators in Atlanta took to the streets and chanted for the officers in Brooks’ case to be criminally charged, at one point late on Saturday blocking traffic on a nearby interstate highway, Wendy’s restaurant went up in flames.
On Sunday, police offered a $10,000 reward and published photos of what appeared to be a masked white woman being sought in connection with the case.
Police said they were seeking those responsible for the blaze, including a woman who was “attempting to hide her identity.” The department posted photos on social media of what looked to be a young white woman wearing a black baseball cap and face mask, and a video clip filmed by a protester that appeared to show a woman encouraging the flames.
“Look at the white girl trying to burn down the Wendy’s,” the man recording the video can hear saying. “This wasn’t us.”

Bottoms said on Saturday that she did not believe the shooting was a justified use of deadly force.
Lawyers for Brooks’ family said he was the father of a young daughter who was celebrating her birthday on Saturday. They said the officers had no right to use deadly force even if he had fired the Taser, a non-lethal weapon, in their direction.
Prosecutors will decide by midweek whether to bring charges, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said on Sunday.
“(The victim) did not seem to present any kind of threat to anyone, and so the fact that it would escalate to his death just seems unreasonable,” Howard told CNN.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain cannot “photoshop” its cultural landscape and complex history as doing so would be a distortion of its past, amid an ongoing row over the removal of statues of historical figures.
"If we start purging the record and removing the images of all but those whose attitudes conform to our own, we are engaged in a great lie, a distortion of our history," Johnson wrote in The Telegraph.
Johnson also defended Winston Churchill and said it was “absurd and deplorable” that the former prime minister’s monument should have been in any danger.
“He was a hero, and I expect I am not alone in saying that I will resist with every breath in my body any attempt to remove that statue from Parliament Square, and the sooner his protective shielding comes off the better,” he said.
Many monuments of historical figures have been boarded up as anti-racism protesters taking to the streets following the death of African-American George Floyd, have put statues at the forefront of their challenge to Britain’s imperialist past.
Earlier this month, a statue of Edward Colston, who made a fortune in the 17th century from the slave trade, was torn down in the port city of Bristol and thrown into the harbour.
Johnson is an admirer and biographer of Churchill, and some of those close to him say he wants to emulate him.
But Churchill expressed racist and anti-Semitic views and critics blame him for denying food to India during the 1943 famine which killed more than two million people - aspects of his legacy which some say are not scrutinized enough.
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