White House

Largely Peaceful Protests Continue Hours Past Curfew in DC

A brief struggle broke out around 1 a.m. Police pepper-sprayed some protesters who continued to shake an 8-foot fence and throw items

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For a fifth night, scores of people took to the streets of D.C. to call for change.

Peaceful protests continued well past the curfew that went into effect at 7 p.m. The crowd started thinning out after 8 p.m., although a core group of several hundred remained at the fence at Lafayette Square for hours, chanting at the line of police and soldiers in riot gear on the other side.

Just before 9 p.m., some protesters began throwing items at Park Police officers standing guard. Others began chanting, "Peaceful protests!"

Tensions flared at about 1 a.m. Wednesday. Some rushed a gate that had been placed around Lafayette Square and shook it, and threw bottles of water and gallons of milk into the park. Police packed shoulder-to-shoulder behind the fence and used pepper spray on those near it.

Protesters were seen on video hanging back after the clash.

More than 5,000 people protested peacefully Tuesday night, the police chief said in an update Wednesday afternoon. 

Just 19 people were arrested, down from a high of 288 people Monday night.

Of people arrested since Saturday, Most were charged with violating the curfew. Eleven percent were charged with felony rioting. Another 11 percent were charged with burglary. 

Ninety percent of protesters who were arrested live in D.C., Maryland or Virginia, the chief said. Nine percent had unknown addresses or no fixed addresses. One percent lived in other states. 

Shortly before the curfew was lifted at 6 a.m. Wednesday, a line of officers was seen blocking the area around 16th and H streets NW while crews cleaned up from the previous night's protest.

Earlier in the evening, protesters marched along 16th Street and eventually made their way to the Lincoln Memorial. The crowd quickly dispersed once the clock struck 7 p.m.

Police and service members guarded the Lincoln Memorial as hundreds of protesters demonstrated peacefully at the Lincoln Memorial Tuesday.

The protests on Tuesday night lacked the tension of the previous nights’ demonstrations. The crowd in Lafayette Square was peaceful, polite even, as they protested the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minnesota.

Instead of spray-painting tags, the protesters Tuesday favored colorful children’s street chalk, writing Black Lives Matter slogans on the pavement in front of St. John’s Church.

An Episcopal priest wearing a face mask reading “I can’t breathe” stood outside the church, where a fire was started Sunday. 

Protesters chanted and talked among themselves, most wearing masks, but not social distancing in the age of COVID-19. One protester, Mati Yiheyis, a 21-year-old college student at the University of Virginia, speculated that fears of coronavirus kept many older people away.

Protesters demonstrated outside the White House hours after D.C.'s curfew. News4's Shomari Stone reports.

When one protester climbed a lamp post and removed a street sign, he was roundly booed by others.

“It’s not what we’re about,” said protester George “T.J.” Pierce of D.C.

In Silver Spring, Maryland, dozens of senior residents of Leisure World, a retirement community, lined Georgia Avenue to protest Floyd's death. The seniors, some of them holding walkers or using wheelchairs, waved signs at drivers passing by.

The curfew went into effect at 7 p.m. Tuesday as primary elections were set to be underway until 8 p.m. Anyone out to vote would not be in violation of the curfew order, the mayor said.

Metro trains stopped running one hour early, at 8 p.m. Metrobus service was set to be suspended two hours early, at 9 p.m. Restaurants and non-essential businesses had to close.

News4's Shomari Stone reports from 21st Street and Constitution Ave. where protesters stopped for a moment to listen to speeches.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday that federal law enforcement would have a stronger presence that night.

"There will be even greater law enforcement resources and support in the region tonight. The most basic function of government is to provide security for people to live their lives and exercise their rights, and we will meet that responsibility here in the nation’s capital," he said in a statement.

D.C police said they arrested more people Monday night than any other night thus far. More than 300 people were arrested Monday. Eighty-eight were arrested Sunday night, when people clashed with law enforcement, set fires and vandalized businesses.

President Donald Trump said Monday evening that he would send "thousands and thousands of heavily armed" forces to the city that night. But D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said no soldiers were seen in local streets.

Trump administration officials discussed the possibility of federalizing D.C.'s local police force, the mayor's said Tuesday.

News4's Mark Segraves read the 1973 District of Columbia Home Rule Act and discussed the issue with legal scholars. Sec. 740 of the act allows the president to assume control of the local police, with restrictions.

Bowser at a press conference on Tuesday responded to a question about how that clause works, indicating that it's not as simple as the president making a stroke of the pen. She didn't comment further.

Photos: Protests, Unrest in DC Following George Floyd’s Death

D.C. held primary elections on Tuesday, complicated by the double whammy of a global pandemic and unrest.

Polls were set to stay open until 8 p.m., one hour after the curfew was set to take effect. Bowser said voters will be exempt from the curfew.

The District opened 20 voting centers and urged residents to vote by mail, a change made due to the coronavirus. Typically there are 144 voting centers in the city.

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