The “Say Their Names: Silver Lake Memorial” — an installation running 2.2 miles on the chain link fence surrounding Silver Lake Reservoir and honoring more than 100 unarmed Black individuals killed by police in the U.S. — must come down by Aug. 15, according to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
The fence is city property, and the DWP said organizers did not obtain permission to put it up, spokeswoman Dawn Cotterell said.
“Say Their Names” co-organizer Lia Brody said that although she knew putting up the installation without permission was against DWP policy, “it was totally overridden by the importance of our mission.”
“This was an urgent moment in history when we really wanted to reach out to our community,” she added. “We’re not trying to sell anything. We were hoping they’d see this project in the context of today’s world.”
The artwork, composed of colorful, woven fabric such as cotton sheets and silky scarves, was never meant to be permanent, Cotterell said. She added that it presents a danger to the environment.
“The fabric can be a hazard, it breaks down, there’s debris,” she said. “And not everyone wants something on the fence, or they may have different views and ideas of what art might be.”
Community members began putting up the installation on June 1 — the first name was George Floyd — and the memorial was mostly completed by June 5. Project co-organizer Micah Woods said that not nearly enough time has passed for the installation to create much-needed awareness about police violence.
“It’s something people are forced to reckon with on their daily walks,” Woods said of the artwork. “I feel really sad, because it just deserves more time. There’s been so little done in terms of policy with the LAPD. And I feel there shouldn’t be an end to memorializing these people who have been so forgotten.”
A heart made of fabric as part of “Say Their Names: Silver Lake Memorial.”
The installation included about 150 people. Disassembling the artwork won’t be easy, Woods said. Many of the fabric knots are tight and triple-knotted; organizers have added laminated bios beside each name. The placards are affixed with zip ties that are cumbersome to undo, one by one. As part of the removal, Brody, Woods, co-organizer Eli Caplan and volunteers began taking down the bio placards last week, along with extraneous fabric and dead flowers.
Woods estimated that the rest of the process will take about two to three days. “It’s faster to take it down than putting it up, because there’s less weaving involved — but it’s still pretty labor intensive,” he said. “Our hope is to have 50 volunteers to help.”
Project organizers have been brainstorming with the volunteer-run nonprofit Silver Lake Conservancy for a permanent memorial — a mural, perhaps, or a commemorative bench. They plan to approach the city with suggestions.
“What would be awesome would be to rename the meadow — the ‘Say Their Names Memorial Meadow,’” Brody said. “Or even a small plaque.”
Ideas are still in their infancy, Brody added. “We’d have to go to City Council meetings. But we wanted to put our energy towards a permanent marker of some kind. And for those who are upset about the names being removed, to start thinking about what’s next.”