Fayetteville, N.C. — On Monday crews began peeling up and burning away the “Black Lives Matter” mural encircling the Market House in Fayetteville.
Fayetteville city council had always intended the mural to be a limited-time artistic piece; however, many citizens were shocked to see the important message being burned away with no warning.
Even Yolanda Burse, a local artist who helped paint the words on the traffic circle last summer, was taken by surprise.
“I was totally shocked,” she said.
She said it’s wrong for the city to remove the slogans just days after rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol.
“You ask me, I think the timing to remove this right now is improper since we’re still trying to digest what happened on Wednesday. This is not a good time to remove this,” she said.
Downtown restaurant owner Bruce Knox thought the artwork was permanent. Seeing the words “Black Lives Matter. End Racism” burned away by crews was a startling and even emotional experience for some citizens.
“When you come downtown and just see [the mural] coming down, you feel a certain way about it,” he said.
Especially given the current political climate, Burse said, “I understand if they want to do this in the future, but today was not the time to put this in play.”
Fayetteville mayor explains the timing
The mayor applauded city council for having voted to put up the Black Lives Matter mural in the summer, after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer sparked protests nationwide.
The Market House, which is nearly 200 years old and played a role in the buying and selling of enslaved men and women in the 1800s, became a center for controversy.
The city then partnered with the local arts council to paint the slogans around the building.
Mayor Mitch Colvin says the artwork only supposed to be there temporarily.
He said the decision to remove the mural at the beginning of 2021 was made back in November. They felt the start of a new year would be a good time to have a fresh start and a blank slate.
“There was no way to predict what DC turn of events would be,” he said.
However, many citizens were shocked because the city only issued a news release after the removal work had started.
Colvin agreed the removal came as a shock to people, and said he hindsight they should have communicated better.
He said city leaders are still fully behind the message of Black Lives Matter, even if the mural is gone.
Moving forward, Colvin encourages residents to get involved in the future of Fayetteville by sharing their thoughts about the future of the Market House with City Council.
He said he believes 2021 can be a year of healing and unity.