De Blasio announced the move about two weeks ago and got into a testy Twitter exchange with President Donald Trump over the decision to paint the mural in front of his building. As Blavity previously reported, Trump said on Twitter that Black Lives Matter is a "symbol of hate."
"Our city isn’t just painting the words on Fifth Avenue. We’re committed to the meaning of the message. #BlackLivesMatter," de Blasio wrote on Twitter Thursday.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) July 9, 2020
The move to have members of the Exonerated Five at the ceremony was lauded because Trump has refused to apologize for taking out advertisements in newspapers in 1989 calling for the death penalty to be given to Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise and Yusef Salaam.
The five — who were all convicted as teenagers in the case revolving around the rape of Trisha Meili — spent years in prison before DNA evidence revealed they were not responsible.
After taking out ads in the newspaper, Trump went on a media tour to gun up racist outrage and vitriol over the case.
Salaam, who was just 15 at the time of the case, told The Guardian in 2016 that Trump played a role in the quick trial and rush to convict him and the other boys.
“He was the firestarter. Common citizens were being manipulated and swayed into believing that we were guilty,” Salaam said.
Local news outlets did not say which members of the Exonerated Five were participating, but videos and images flooded social media showing the painting in front of Trump's building.
Petty is my thing. I’m made of more petty than organ & bone.
Hear me children, what @BilldeBlasio did today in NYC is petty level 587! ????
I knew he was painting #BlackLivesMatter on Fifth Avenue in front of Tang Tower.
But guys, he painted it JUST in front of Tang Tower. ???? pic.twitter.com/WBNfd0UxYS
— yvette nicole brown (@YNB) July 9, 2020
The city plans to put at least one Black Lives Matter mural in all five boroughs, NBC New York reported. Multiple cities, starting with Washington D.C. last month, have decided to put large murals with the words in symbolic places. Washington D.C. put its painting right in front of the White House, and other cities have painted the murals near police stations.
There will be others in Manhatten, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. One painting was finished Wednesday on Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard in Harlem.
“It is going to be bold, yellow letters, but in addition to that, we also are including the names of men and women whose lives have been taken due to racial violence in this country, starting with Emmett Till all the way to George Floyd,” Indira Etwaroo, executive artistic director of the Billie Holiday Theatre, told CBS New York of the Fulton Street mural.
In addition to members of the Exonerated Five and Sharpton, de Blasio was joined by his wife Chirlane McCray, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and other activists, WABC reported.
“Black lives matter in our city, and Black lives matter in the United States of America. Let’s show Donald Trump what he does not understand. Let’s paint it right in front of his building for him," de Blasio said on Thursday morning.
"We are not denigrating anything, we are liberating Fifth Avenue. We are uplifting Fifth Avenue. Who built this city? Who built this nation and never got the acknowledgment, the recognition, the compensation? So when we say, 'Black lives matter,' there is no more American statement, there is no more patriotic statement because there is no America without Black America," de Blasio said, referencing Trump's tweet saying the painting was "denigrating this luxury Avenue."
The city also announced a section of Centre Street in Manhatten would be co-named with, "Black Lives Matter Boulevard," according to 1010 Wins.