Phoenix Denies Black Lives Matter Street Mural Proposal in Light of Law and Order Mural Request

Phoenix, Arizona, USA downtown cityscape from above at dusk.
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Phoenix, Arizona, has officially denied a proposal for a Black Lives Matter street mural on Wednesday, after receiving a competing proposal in favor of law enforcement.

Phoenix does not currently allow street murals, but was considering the implementation of a pilot program that would have begun with a “Black Lives Matter” message similar to others displayed across the country in the wake of widespread racial justice protests.

But in response to the request, Judicial Watch southwest projects coordinator Mark Spencer put forward another idea. The former Phoenix Law Enforcement Association president proposed a street mural saying “no one is above the law” in front of the Phoenix Police Department headquarters. This echoes Judicial Watch’s motto, “Because no one is above the law!”

“It appears the city has decided to allow political messages on public streets utilizing city resources,” Spencer wrote in response to the original Black Lives Matter mural proposal. “The city’s commitment in not condoning viewpoint discrimination is to be lauded. The city’s past commitment to avoid the appearance of political discrimination in a public forum and to maintain neutrality in addressing political perspective and religious issues indicates its ongoing commitment to the 1st Amendment constitutional rights.”

Phoenix City Manager Ed Zuercher denied both requests in respective letters on Wednesday. Zuercher cited “overriding concerns with safety, risks, and federal guidelines for markings on streets” in his response. The decision may have also been influenced by legal risks should they allow one mural and not the other. Judicial Watch sued Washington, D.C., earlier this summer after a similar response to the Black Lives Matter street mural was denied.

“Once you start permitting them, people are going to say, ‘What about mine?'” Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law dean emeritus Paul Bender told the Arizona Republic. “When you start permitting one, but not another, there is going to be a lot of judicial skepticism.”

Gizette Knight, local organizer of the proposed BLM mural, is not so easily discouraged. “Every time Black people go to do something down here, we face adversity,” she said. The group is apparently planning to sue the city for denying their proposal, calling the response “not accurate” because data was not provided to show any danger to drivers or pedestrians because of street art.

Councilman Sal DiCiccio (R) took the decision as a win for the public. “This is Government Speak for: ‘Public would have handed us our ass if we allowed the BLM mural to happen,'” he tweeted on Wednesday night, alongside the letter denying Knight’s request. “Never underestimate political self-preservation,” DiCiccio added. “We Win Again!!!”

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