By Associated Press - Friday, October 16, 2020

TOPEKA, Kan. — Officials plan to wash away the words “Black Lives Matter” from a Topeka parking lot because the yellow block letters were painted without permission in a decision that has angered activists.

The phrase, a rallying cry for demonstrators protesting police brutality, appeared in June on the main lot in the North Topeka Arts District. The mural was painted shortly after George Floyd, a Black man in handcuffs, died May 25 after a white police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for several minutes while Floyd said he couldn’t breathe.

Although the Parks and Recreation department is removing the words next week, Shawnee County commissioner Bill Riphahn said that organizers can ask to get a new, county-approved mural, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

“We just can’t allow anybody to paint anytime in a park or anything. If we allow that to stay, what is to keep another group from coming in and painting something bigger or over the top of it that might be offensive to another group?” Riphahn added. “Where does it end?”

Topeka resident Ariane Davis said she cried after learning the mural was being removed. Since there is nothing that can be done to save the current painting, Davis noted that she is instead focusing on creating a new one.

“It’s not just going to be a small little piece in a parking lot,” she said. “We want to be loud, we want to be proud, we want it bigger, we want it brighter, we want it bolder, we want to make a beautiful piece of work saying Black Lives Matter.”

In a post circulating on Facebook, some members of the “Blue Shield” Facebook group started a campaign to get the mural removed. Davis said she was upset to see so many people writing and calling county commissioners to remove the message of unity.

“You can remove it from the street, you can remove it from signs, posters, buildings or anything else, but you have to understand that this is a movement,” Davis addded. “It is a way of life, and we will continue to call for justice and equality until every Black life matters.”

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