President Donald Trump blasted New York City's plan to paint the phrase "Black Lives Matter" on Fifth Avenue in front of Trump Tower, calling it a "symbol of hate" and demanding the city spend the money on policing instead.
NYC officials said last week they would emulate other cities and paint the message in large letters on a prominent roadway -- in this case, right in front of the president's flagship building.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said on MSNBC Wednesday morning that the work would happen over the coming days, leading to Trump's tweets. But it didn't start as expected Thursday, and City Hall said it would be delayed to an unspecified time next week. He didn't immediately elaborate on the reason for the delay.
When the mural painting does begin, point Fifth Avenue will be closed to traffic in front of Trump Tower for a number of days. One hundred gallons of paint are expected to be used in the process.
"Maybe our GREAT Police, who have been neutralized and scorned by a mayor who hates & disrespects them, won’t let this symbol of hate be affixed to New York’s greatest street. Spend this money fighting crime instead!" the president tweeted.
The latest spat comes one day after the New York City Council approved a new budget that includes $1 billion in budget cuts and expense reductions at the NYPD. (Though notwithstanding those cuts, the work on the Fifth Avenue sign is expected to incur multiple days of overtime for multiple officers, working 12-hour shifts.)
De Blasio took to Twitter to fire back at Trump in unsparing terms.
"There is no 'symbol of hate' here. Just a commitment to truth," the mayor wrote. "Only in your mind could an affirmation of people's value be a scary thing."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also weighed in, saying he supports the murals. However, he also aimed criticism at de Blasio over budget cuts amid the recent spike in violence. He also said that cutting the NYPD's budget is one thing, but trying to actually reform police should be the real goal, not simply appeasing protesters.
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"Now it's about making the actual change. Not just saying to the protesters, 'I'm with you," Cuomo said.
There will be more murals painted all over the city in coming days, according to a city official. One will be in Harlem on Adam Clayton Powell and 125th Street, with another in Lower Manhattan on Center Street between Worth and Reade streets. There are tentative plans for a mural in the Bronx on Morris Avenue, and one in Queens on Jamaica Avenue.
Overall, polls have shown a majority of Americans supporting Black Lives Matter since recent protests against racial injustice began.
-- Jonathan Dienst and Melissa Russo contributed reporting.