Protest signage was relocated from the fence surrounding the White House to nearby scaffolding (all photos by Murat Cem Mengüç)

WASHINGTON, DC — A controversial metal fence, which was erected around the White House at the beginning of the month, has since been taken apart. The fence was built on June 1 to cordon off Lafayette Square, presumably to allow Donald Trump a safe passage to stage a photo opportunity in front of the St. John’s Episcopal Church amid citywide anti-racism protests.

Afterward, Black Lives Matter protestors transformed the fence into a messaging board and a spontaneous art show. When the activists discovered that certain sections of the fence had been removed and that it would soon be dismantled, they took what they could and reinstalled it across the street. Believing the memorabilia could be trashed by the contractors, they reinstated it on scaffolding on the other side of Lafayette Square.

Workers remove a fence around the White House, which had previously been decorated with protest signs.
A portrait of Breonna Taylor, who was murdered by Louisville Metro Police Department officers, contrasts “Trump/Pence Must Go!” flyers
Local artists have posted artworks including collage, drawings, and pop-art.

When I visited the public artwork, an aspiring graffiti artist and activist named Noah explained to me that he was among those who helped and two of his own signs were hanging among them. He is one of many contributors to the still-growing display, as people continue to bring new signage and posters and hand it at the site. Trees, poles, and electric boxes, as well as the plywood used for boarding up storefronts on 16th Street, are being utilized to post words and graphics in support of the Black Lives Matter.

The body of Chynal Lindsey, a 26-year-old Black transgender woman, was discovered in a Dallas lake.
A watercolor reads: “First anger, then action, ’til we reach satisfaction.”
Community members visit the wall

Last week, a group of curators from the Smithsonian Institute visited the site and agreed to preserve at least some of the memorabilia at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Activists believe the museum acquired a significant portion of what was removed from the fence. Meanwhile, many more pieces are stored away by the activists who currently ran a free food stand across the street, next to the St. John’s Episcopal Church. Eric and Ryan, the two activists who were in charge of the stand at the time, said they did everything they could to salvage the artwork and the signage, which is now on display as a makeshift public art exhibtion.

A bundle of flowers was taped to the protest wall
A “defund police” collage
Anti-cop graffiti decorates the sidewalk and writing on the fence spells out “police-free schools” in colorful material

Murat Cem Mengüç is a freelance writer, artist and a historian who holds a PhD in history of MENA. He is the founder of Studio Teleocene, and currently based outside of Washington, DC.

2 replies on “After White House Fence Comes Down, Its Activist Art and Posters Move Nearby”

  1. Hiya – great article but I am a bit surprised that the image of the ‘Police-free schools’ graffiti is labeled as ‘anti-police’? Asking for schools to not have police on their grounds is not necessarily anti-police, it simply asks that issues at schools are handled by non-police professionals which I think would be agreeable to most people. I never once saw a police person in my school growing up and I really would hope children / young people should feel safe at school with the need for law enforcement on site. Thank you

  2. The “Stop Killing Us” sign is interesting.

    So are we just going to skip over all the statistics and facts of POC being killed by POC at astronomically higher rates than POC being killed by police?

    Again, racism and police brutality has no place in this world, period. But the fact that these protests are continuing while we are ACTIVELY seeing not only adult POC – but CHILDREN being MURDERED – by other POC, is horrifying.

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