As peaceful protests continued to flower and grow in U.S. cities and around the world over the weekend, a newly-erected security fence established around the White House in Washington, D.C. became what one reporter described as a “crowd-sourced memorial wall” — adorned with hand-made signs, posters, and other tributes — that offered a poignant rebuke to the president’s “law and order” response to the demonstrations that erupted following the murder of George Floyd last month.
Since the new security barrier was established late last week, it has been adorned with countless protest signs calling for justice, declaring “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe,” and naming many other victims killed violently by law enforcement in recent years.
Washington Post reporter Hannah Natanson on Sunday posted a video of the scene which has since attracted more than 5 million views on social media:
The fence outside the White House has been converted to a crowd-sourced memorial wall — almost like an art gallery — to black men and women who lost their lives at the hands of police.
Hundreds are strolling, looking, adding names and paintings and posters. pic.twitter.com/mXlZpfMAeX
— Hannah Natanson (@hannah_natanson) June 7, 2020
Speaking with DCist.com, Kai Gamanya, a surgical technician who participated in protests in the nation’s capitol over the weekend, talked about hanging a painting he made on the fence and how uplifting it was overall to see the people transform the physical barrier into a symbol of protest and a tribute to lives lost and the justice now being demanded.
“It’s like the whole nation is crying, and this whole fence is crying,” said Gamanya. “And if you were to back up and see it from beginning to end, it’s nothing but posters from all the way down.”
The 8-foot chain link fence protecting the White House has become a sort of archive / exhibition of the D.C. protests with signs, memorials, flowers and art. pic.twitter.com/mvr0wBkOy6
— Rebecca Tan (@rebtanhs) June 6, 2020
While Trump built a large portion of his political brand and 2016 president campaign on his desire to “build the wall” along the entire U.S. southern border, the irony was not lost on those who witnessed the nearly 1.7 miles of new fence put up to surround the White House last week.
Here’s @ktumulty with a history lesson on White House fencing and this kicker: “A president who needs to take shelter behind fences and barriers because he feels threatened by his own citizens is not their leader. He is their prisoner.” https://t.co/cOEROhWPh3
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) June 5, 2020
But the manner in which demonstrators and visitors transformed the structure for division and separation into a symbol of revolt and passionate expression gave many observers a feeling of hope and pride:
It’s so beautiful to remember, periodically, that the American people are hungry to express creativity and to march for justice https://t.co/oGdXAzAsn9
— Dr. Steven W. Thrasher (@thrasherxy) June 7, 2020
I can’t get over this. Protesters in DC have turned Trump’s disgusting White House fence into this 👇🏻 pic.twitter.com/b83DSVMIMf
— Joshua Potash (@JoshuaPotash) June 7, 2020
— Bruce Friedrich (@BruceGFriedrich) June 8, 2020
“Beautiful,” said actor and activist George Takei in a one-word response to the video posted by Natanson.
“Whose fence?” tweeted Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “Our fence!”