At least three people were arrested after throwing blue paint on the Black Lives Matter mural in midtown — the second time in a week the Fifth Avenue mural has been defaced.
The alleged vandals threw the paint in what appeared to be a coordinated effort involving about 10 people around 4 p.m. Friday. There were plans going around on social media with a group of people discussing pulling off the stunt.
One of those arrested, a woman wearing a rainbow flag as a cape and a shirt that read "All Lives Matter," was put into custody, smirking when asked why she did it. She was seen on video dumping a can of paint while running along the length of the mural, with another woman joining her, and then putting hand prints into the spilled paint.
The second woman later spoke with NBC New York, saying that it should read "All Lives Matter" and that using taxpayer money for it was wrong. One of the people taken into custody appeared to be the same woman who talked with News 4 just a week ago, and vowed at that time that she would come back to deface the mural.
Two women — 39-year-old Juliet Germanotta and 25-year-old D'Anna Morgan — were arrested, along with 44-year-old Luis Martinez. All three NYC residents were charged with criminal mischief, and released with a desk appearance ticket. A 64-year-old woman was also issued a criminal court summons for illegally posting flyers.
Opposing groups on the Black Lives Matter movement chanted and shouted in front of the doors to Trump Tower as she was being arrested. The confrontation got heated quickly, with one woman kicking a can of the blue paint in anger that splashed nearby officers.
Police blocked off some traffic on Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets just minutes after the incident occurred. Crews were able to clean up the vandalism by nightfall, but those responsible said they would be back to do it again.
On Monday, the mural -- a project President Donald Trump blasted as a "symbol of hate" -- was defaced with a large splash of red paint.
Photos and videos posted to social media around lunchtime showed red paint all over the letters "liv" in Lives. One video, obtained by News 4, shows a person dressed in dark colors and hat, dump a single can of paint across the mural before running away; the NYPD is investigating and on Friday released surveillance images of the suspect, hoping someone will recognize him.
Hours after that incident, Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed the mural had already been repainted by city employees, removing any hint of the red paint.
"The #BlackLivesMatter movement is more than words, and it can't be undone," de Blasio tweeted.
Nikki Rospond, the woman who caught the vandal on camera, said she works in the neighborhood and was on her lunch break Monday when she decided to come by and take a video of the whole mural.
The suspect suddenly stepped into her video frame, threw the paint and quickly ran off. "I just couldn't believe he did it in front of me and another person. It was clear we were videotaping and he just didn't care," Rospond said.
"Thankfully this was just paint and nothing violent," she continued.
After a brief postponement, the painting was finished last week. Mayor de Blasio along with the Rev. Al Sharpton joined the effort last Thursday, both helping to paint the letter "L" in lives as onlookers chanted "Black Lives Matter."
"Our city isn’t just painting the words on Fifth Avenue. We’re committed to the meaning of the message," de Blasio tweeted Thursday as he painted.
The mural is one of five found in each of the city's five boroughs. T
De Blasio later took to Twitter to fire back at Trump in unsparing terms.
"There is no 'symbol of hate' here. Just a commitment to truth," the mayor wrote. "Only in your mind could an affirmation of people's value be a scary thing." The mayor went on to say on Thursday that "we are not denigrating anything, we are liberating Fifth Avenue."
Many New Yorkers paused along Fifth Avenue last Thursday to take photos of the developing mural.
“I think it’s amazing. It sticks it to him," said Fran Prince of Midtown, referring to the president. "It doesn’t mean that it’ll change him. But it breaks away at the things that he thinks he can say and stop."
Not everyone outside the president's former home is on board with the plan. As one Trump supporter told News 4, "I'm praying for rain."
Hawk Newsome, the leader of the Black Lives Movement, blasted de Blasio for allegedly not involving them in this particular mural project.
"I like this project because it annoys Trump, but we don’t need de Blasio to sign streets. We need him to sign legislation," Newsome said in a statement. "If he had called me, I would have said have a black business paint this."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has expressed similar sentiments. While he supports the murals, he has said trying to enact actual police reform should be the primary goal. He has aimed criticism at de Blasio over NYPD budget cuts amid the recent spike in violence. (Shortly after the city passed a budget that sharply cut NYPD funding, it paid multiple officers overtime to guard the mural project.)
Overall, polls have shown a majority of Americans supporting Black Lives Matter since recent protests against racial injustice began.