Like millions of Americans, Diego Garces is out of work during the coronavirus pandemic. And like so many, he was disturbed by the killing of George Floyd. To support the protests in Washington, D.C., he’s come to the White House every day to pick up trash left behind by other protesters.
"I had to figure out what to do with my time," he said. "I was outraged with what was happening and the videos we see on the internet and I said, 'I need to go down and support the protests.'"
Garces went to the intersection of 16th and H streets NW 14 days ago and returned every day with a broom in hand. What started as a few bags of trash turned into a mission.
"When you see all the trash, it looked like a landfill and gives a different image to the protest. I wanted to make sure people were peaceful and I wanted to contribute to that with picking up the recycling," he said.
The effort to keep the area clean turned collective. Garces posted on social media about his work and people across the country responded by sending money to buy trash bags. Other protesters pitched in to help clean up too.
On an average day, Garces said he collects about 50 to 70 large bags full of trash. As for the better-attended days of protests, those cleaning up had more than 350 bags.
Though the crowds have started to diminish, Garces said he still plans to show up and clean the streets for as long as necessary.