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Centre Street is named ‘Black Lives Matter Boulevard’ but not without interruption

Several demonstrators from #OccupyCityHall attempt to take over the microphone after Borough President Brewer spoke. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Centre Street in Manhattan has been named “Black Lives Matter Boulevard,” but not without a little raucous attention from members of the #OccupyCityHall crowd who crashed the Manhattan Borough President’s party, so to speak.

Brewer gathered with members of Black Lives Matter New York City and artists who had painted colorful lettering on Centre Street in front of the Municipal Building, Federal Court to the State Supreme Court near Worth Street. The letter spelled out Black lives Matter, but it was different in that it gave a colorful retrospect of people’s lives and how they live in the city.

Joining Brewer was Nupol Kiazolu, President, Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, and the three artists behind the Centre Street Black Lives Matter mural, Sophia Dawson, Tijay Mohammed, and Patrice Payne. Brewer also announced that the mural, which stretches 600 feet on Centre Street from Reade Street to Worth Street will be closed to cars until July 17, thanks to the Department of Transportation.

The new sign Black Lives Matter Boulevard was unveiled. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

“On the 152nd Anniversary of the ratification of the 14th Amendment in 1868, which guaranteed equal protection under the law to all citizens, including former slaves emancipated by Abraham Lincoln, I’m proud to announce, with Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, the name of Manhattan’s newest street, “Black Lives Matter Boulevard.”

While speakers were addressing the crowd, they were interrupted several times by members of #OccupyCityHall who were not invited to the event. The same interruption occurred on Tuesday when City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams held his own press conference at the Municipal Building, only to be interrupted by members of that sleep-in group, who were then invited to stay. Williams did not show for Brewer’s event, though was invited.

Man in black shirt identified himself at Trayvon Martin’s uncle. (Photo by Todd Maisel)
He left peacefully and gave the arm bumps to the speakers. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

At one point, a man who identified himself as the uncle of Trayvon Martin, a teen who was killed on February 26, 2012, in Florida, by controversial self-styled Good Samaritan who fatally shot him in a controversial African American controversy.

“Remember Trayvon, he was my nephew,” the man said who then went back across to the encampment.

Then, a larger group of demonstrators showed up, some carrying signage blasting police, racism or other topics. Some of them attempted to disrupt the ceremony, especially when a DOT deputy commissioner was speaking about the African Burial Ground around the corner from the location.

Brewer continued her ceremony with several speakers, including the artists who painted the lettering on the courthouse row. The group then unveiled the sign and announced they would be going to view the artwork on Centre Street – the OccupyCityHall group asked that people come “see our work.”

Artist shows off his work on Centre Street. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Brewer was undeterred saying, “We as a city and nation must build on symbolic acts like these. We must ensure that police are properly trained in de-escalation practices—and clearly punished when they misbehave. We must work toward fairly funding our public schools,” Brewer said.

She added, “But of course Black Lives have mattered for 400 years. They mattered in 1868 when the 14th amendment was ratified, and every year since. But it’s worth having those words permanently on this sign, in this place, so close to City Hall and the Courts. It will remind us that we still have much more to do, to keep Black Lives mattering.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and other activists joined in unveiling the new street name. A demonstrator holds up her own sign protesting a school district alleged misdeeds. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

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