D.C. police cordoned off a large section of Adams Morgan for hours late Thursday and early Friday and arrested 41 people. Two officers were injured.
A video shot by a protester shows Metropolitan Police Department officers pinning a man to the ground, and a man told News4 that officers used pepper spray on him.
Thirty-eight of the people arrested faced felony riot act charges. Another three people were accused of assaulting an officer.
But many of those arrested said they were released Friday without being charged. Some told News4's Jackie Bensen they are still trying to get back their phones, cameras and other belongings confiscated by police.
What began as a peaceful protest ended in mass arrests and police appearing to spray an irritant into a crowd.
According to multiple accounts, the protest began Thursday night with about 50 people in Meridian Hill Park, commonly known as Malcolm X Park. The group headed toward the Third District police station in the 1600 block of V Street NW and then to 18th and Willard streets NW.
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Protesters told News4 they were speaking out against three 2018 confrontations with officers that resulted in men’s deaths. Police released body camera footage last week after the deaths of Marqueese Alston, Jeffrey Price and D’Quan Young.
Officers formed a perimeter around them protesters using a tactic called kettling while an area stretching as far south as Dupont Circle, lined with bars and restaurants, was shut down.
News4 footage shows officers standing behind police tape. Officers started putting protesters in handcuffs at about 12:30 a.m. Friday and took them away in vans.
“Let them go,” others chanted.
A video shot by a protester shows officers pinning a man to the ground and appearing to use an irritant spray.
“They got their knee on him,” a woman can be heard saying as several people stand in place with their cellphones up.
Another man later told News4 that officers used a spray on him.
One protester was put in an ambulance. Information on their condition was not released. Two officers received non-life-threatening injuries.
In an update Friday, D.C. police said they arrested 41 people and released the names of those arrested. Most were in their 20s and 30s.
“We facilitate daily peaceful demonstrations in DC. Overnight, intentional fires were set & property destroyed. When this occurs, our members have a responsibility to take action,” the department said in a tweet with photos showing a burnt newspaper stand, a sign on fire outside a Starbucks and graffiti saying “Gentrifiers live here.”
In another tweet, police said there's a difference “between peaceful protestors & individuals destroying property or setting fires.”
Police say they recovered knives, fireworks and “chemical irritants” from the protesters and offenses that occurred included arson and property destruction.
D.C. Council member Charles Allen, chairman of the judiciary committee, questioned charging so many people with rioting.
“I think there are some real concerns about what our felony rioting provisions look like and how they end up getting applied, especially if there is a case where it’s getting applied where there is a peaceful protest," he said Friday on WAMU.
Police refused to respond to questions.
After canceling a Friday morning press briefing at the last minute, the office of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser also declined to answer questions.
Stay with NBC Washington for more details on this developing story.