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Activists paint 'Black Lives Matter' on street outside Trump Tower

People gather and take pictures of a Black Lives Matter mural painted earlier in the day on Fifth Avenue outside of Trump Tower on Thursday. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
People gather and take pictures of a "Black Lives Matter" mural painted earlier in the day on Fifth Avenue outside of Trump Tower on Thursday. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

July 9 (UPI) -- Community leaders painted the message "Black Lives Matter" in large, yellow letters on Fifth Avenue just outside Trump Tower in New York City on Thursday.

The city shut down the road between 56th and 7th streets, allowing activists to paint the mural, which spans an entire lane. The message faces Trump Tower so that any occupants of the building could look out a front window and read it.

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The street painting is one of several put up across the country, including in Dallas, Seattle and Washington, D.C. They were inspired by anti-police brutality protests after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was on hand Thursday to help with the painting process.

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"Our city isn't just painting the words on Fifth Avenue. We're committed to the meaning of the message," he tweeted.

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday called for sweeping reforms to the New York Police Department, saying the public no longer had faith in their law enforcement. She issued a preliminary report about the department's response to the protests sparked by Floyd's death.

The Attorney General's Office said it received 1,300 complaints concerning police conduct during the protest, many of them alleging NYPD officers used excessive force, including the indiscriminate use of batons and pepper spray and the brandishing of firearms at protesters as well as pushing vehicles or bikes into demonstrators.

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Other areas of concern include the NYPD's use of the so-called kettling tactic where officers surround and block protesters from leaving a specific area, which often leads to violent clashes between the two sides; the officers' treatment of the press, legal observers, elected officials and essential workers; and general arrests practices as well as and other practices that impair community trust, such as not wearing personal protective equipment during the protests amid a pandemic.

Within the report, James calls for a series of systemic changes that the city, state and NYPD should consider to remedy the concerns of the public, including redesigning the role of police in New York City, stating law enforcement being the "de facto response" to mental illness, homelessness and school safety must change.

Darryl Coote contributed to this report.

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