Judicial Watch: DC Government Spends $270,000 To Repaint ‘Black Lives Matter’ on Street Near White House

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today it received 25 pages of records in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from the Washington, DC, Department of Transportation which show the cost to taxpayers to repaint the Black Lives Matter slogan on a street in the nation’s capital was over $270,000. (The repainting seems to have taken place shortly before Black Lives Matter groups began defending Hamas terrorist murders of Jews in Israel.) 

On June 5, 2020, after days of protests and riots in DC led by the Black Lives Matter movement, a team of artists, residents, District employees, and demonstrators painted “Black Lives Matter” in 50-foot-tall yellow capital letters and the District’s crest, which resembles three stars above an “equals” sign, on 16th Street NW near the White House. The following day, demonstrators painted “Defund the Police,” a key demand of the Black Lives Matter movement, alongside the “Black Lives Matter” message. 

The total price tag of $271,231 includes $53,551 for paint and supplies, and $217,680 for labor.  

In a purchase order dated September 15, 2023, with the description “Black Lives Matter Plaza Redo,” a vendor charged DC-based Equus Striping a total of $53,551.20 for supplies for “BLMRedo2023.” These supplies included “StreetBond 250 Yellow-BLM (MMA)”, “StreetBond 250 Catalyst,” and “StreetBond Primer,” plus shipping. 

The labor for the repainting was provided by a subcontractor called Dewberry and totaled $217,680. 

A memorandum of negotiations for the project dated April 13, 2023, indicates that the project required a foreman, operator, laborer, carpenter, and mason. Equipment included a backhoe/loader, portable air compressor, Bobcat, dump truck, pick-up truck, and service truck.   

The memorandum also indicates that the hourly rates submitted by the contractor on March 9, 2023, were rejected. After negotiation, the contractor submitted lower hourly rates and were accepted on April 13, 2023. The negotiated pricing was signed off on by DC Department of Transportation officials Dr. Eloka Kingsley Achebe (deputy program manager), Jaswant Matharu (project manager-local paving), and Gaiyath Naanou (resident engineer-local paving). 

Judicial Watch obtained the records in a November 6, 2023, FOIA request for: 

  • All budget records, invoices, work orders, authorizations, agreements and contracts involved in repainting the Black Lives Matter logo on Black Lives Matter Plaza in November 2023. 
  • All emails sent to and from the following DC Department of Transportation officials: Interim Director Sharon Kershbaum, General Counsel Frank Seales Jr, Chief of Staff Matthew Marcou, Chief of External Affairs Olivia Dedner, Chief Project Delivery Officer Sandra Marks, Interim Chief Operating Officer Neelima Ghanta, Chief Information Officer Khaled Falah, Chief Performance Officer John Thomas and Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer Nana Bailey-Thomas identified using the following search queries: 
  1. BLM+Hamas 
  2. BLM+terrorism 
  3. BLM+Palestinian 
  4. BLM+Palestinians 
  • All emails sent between any of the officials identified in Bullet 2 and any representative and/or employee of Black Lives Grassroots organization and/or with an email account ending in the domain @blmgrassroots.org.  

“DC crime is out of control but local leaders continue to waste $270,000 in tax money promoting the extremist Black Lives Matter movement in the heart of Washington, DC, that is racist, anti-police, anti-American, and often violent,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.  

On July 1, 2020, Judicial Watch filed a civil rights lawsuit against Mayor Bowser and other officials for First Amendment violations over their refusal to allow Judicial Watch to paint the message “Because No One Is Above the Law!” on a DC street.  

In August 2020, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit against Bowser, the District of Columbia Department of Transportation and the District of Columbia Department of Public Works for records about the painting of “Black Lives Matter” and “Defund the Police” on a DC street in front of the White House 

In September 2020, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Transportation for records of communication between the Federal Highway Administration and the District of Columbia’s Department of Transportation about the painting Black Lives Matter on 16th Street NW near the White House.

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