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City paints 'All Black Lives Matter' on Providence street

Artists paint "All Black Lives Matter" on a street near Kennedy Plaza in Providence, Thursday, June 3, 2021. (WJAR)
Artists paint "All Black Lives Matter" on a street near Kennedy Plaza in Providence, Thursday, June 3, 2021. (WJAR)
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Volunteers on Thursday painted "All Black Lives Matter" on a street in Providence next to Kennedy Plaza.

"This right here is a very bold, public declaration of our value and importance in the world in which we live in," said Rodney Davis, a volunteer and co-facilitator for the mural. "This, we hope, is going to serve as a catalyst for larger conversations that will affect not only City Hall, but the State House, as well as people here in Providence or in Coventry."

A spokesperson for the city said the project was put on by the Department of Arts, Culture, and Tourism and will likely remain on the street for two years.

Davis said the plans started one year ago, but a paint shortage and time needed to develop the project are among the reasons it's being put forward now.

"I think it's a nice gesture, but I think that it's more important to see what the city does in terms of actions, policies that have an impact on people's every day lives," said Tamkia La Salle.

The project was granted a special permit by the city, a mayor's spokesperson said, but did not return NBC 10 News' questions about how much the project will cost and who is paying for it.

In a statement to NBC 10 News , Mayor Jorge Elorza said, "The wounds of racial injustice run deep and to address them we must continue to engage each other in conversation. We believe this public art installation can be a catalyst for those conversations and I look forward to bringing more people in."

"Good government should represent all of the people, not just some of the people, not just the special interest groups that it may sympathize with," said Mike Stenhouse of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity. "If they're going to present points of view, like all black lives matter, which who is going to disagree with that as a statement, then they should represent other views from other people as well."

Meanwhile, leaders of Black Lives Matter Rhode Island called the project a "slap in the face," claiming they were not part of the plans to construct the mural.

"It defeats the purpose," said Mark Fisher. "It goes against the whole point of why we are out here on the front lines doing what we do every day. It's so that we can be part of this conversation. Then to just come down here and see a huge, Black Lives Matter mural that we had no idea about, to me, is not only a sign of disrespect, but also very condescending."

Davis said he expects the project will be complete by early next week, with a special unveiling later this month.

"This is a protest but a silent one, that emphasizes the importance of we as a community of black and brown folks that we matter, we are contributors to our community and we want people to understand that this is an invitation for people to come," he told NBC 10 News.

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