MANHATTAN (CN) — Claiming that the Black Lives Matter mural outside Trump Tower was a shrewd political ploy, a conservative women’s group slapped New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio with a federal complaint.
Women for America First says it formally requested to paint its own self-funded public mural in New York City on July 9, the same day de Blasio grabbed a roller to paint “Black Lives Matter” in bold yellow lettering on Fifth Avenue outside of President Donald Trump’s namesake Manhattan tower.
“In light of New York City’s decision to open Fifth Avenue as a public fora and permit a bright yellow ‘Black Lives Matter’ mural to be painted on the street, I write on behalf of Women for America First to express our organization’s interest in likewise painting a mural of our own,” the group said in its request to the mayor, as quoted in the complaint.
While the group’s website echoes Trump’s slogan to “Make America Great Again,” its complaint says it had a more inclusive message for its mural:
“Engaging, Inspiring and Empowering Women to Make a Difference!”
Accusing the mayor of trampling its First Amendment rights, the women’s group says de Blasio pandered to Black Lives Matter because it suits his “political ambitions to run for national or other elected office as a Democrat after the end of his final term as Mayor of New York City or to be appointed to a prominent position in an anticipated Biden administration.”
First Amendment attorney Ron Coleman with the firm Mandelbaum Salsburg made the complaint public Thursday night, and the Southern District of New York processed the filing Friday morning.
In addition to eyeing the same block of Fifth Avenue for its mural, the group said it would paint its message in the same style and square footage as the yellow “Black Lives Matter” slogan.
Alternative locations that the women’s group would accept are FDR Drive outside the mayor’s official residence at Gracie’s Mansion, on 42nd Street near Times Square, or City Hall Park in Lower Manhattan.
Confronted about the request Thursday at a daily briefing, de Blasio said he had not considered allowing other groups besides Black Lives Matter to have their messages painted on the city’s streets.
“No. Everything’s individual and specific,” he told reporters.
Referring to Black Lives Matter as “a seismic moment” that “can only be compared to the Civil Rights Movement of the ’50s and ’60s in terms of its importance,” de Blasio said the message “transcends any notion of politics.”
“The original sin of the United States of America, slavery and all of the effects over 400 years being brought out in the open in a new way and a chance for this country to get it right, to address this problem, to move forward,” he said. “And it’s summarized in the three words Black Lives Matter. And so this is about something much bigger than any one group. This is about righting a wrong and moving us all forward. So I think that’s the right approach.”
Representatives for New York City’s Department of Transportation, which has authority over the city streets, did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
In addition to de Blasio, the complaint names Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg as a defendant.
Washington, D.C., was the first U.S. city to get a giant yellow “Black Lives Matter” mural when Mayor Muriel Bowser had it painted on a street leading to the White House in early June to show solidarity with Americans outraged over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Coleman is joined in the suit by Washington-based attorney Michael Yoder.
“On information and belief, de Blasio’s conduct as alleged herein is intended as a political gesture to the BLM movement and those sympathetic to it which has been done in order to enhance his future prospects as a Democratic candidate for office or appointee and by rallying BLM support for Democrats, including in the 2020 presidential election,” the complaint says.
Women for America First was co-founded by former Tea Party activist Amy Kremer and her daughter Kylie.
According to its online bio, the group is a “a 21st century suffrage movement” that aspires to “drain the swamp” of the Washington political establishment and mainstream media.
“We still have a lot of work to do to stop the liberal crowd from controlling the media’s narrative and our efforts to Make America Great Again,” the group’s website states.
Last year, in response to the impeachment inquiry President Trump faced from the House over his dealings with Ukraine, Women for America First organized a “March for Trump” in Washington,
More recently, the group organized several protests against stay-at-home orders implemented in response to the Covid-19 global pandemic.
Prior to co-founding the Virginia-based nonprofit group, the elder Kremer spent 2010 to 2016 campaigning for candidates endorsed by the Tea Party across the country. In 2017, she ran for Georgia’s 6th District where she only picked up 351 votes, less than 0.2% of the vote.