D.C. police officials are looking into an incident caught on video showing officers forcibly dismantling protesters’ tents at Black Lives Matter Plaza, the mayor said.
Videos show part of what protesters claim is a pattern of aggressive behavior by police after the news cameras leave at night.
The videos show mayhem on Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House early Saturday. D.C. officers with bicycles formed a line and appeared to try to push protesters back for reasons that are not clear.
Other officers grabbed the poles of two blue tents that had been put up over coolers and tables of food and forcibly dismantled them.
Witnesses say a chemical irritant was released.
One video shows an officer kicking a barbecue grill as he walks off, sending burning coals flying.
The grill belongs to a collective that calls themselves The Earls. They have maintained a 24-hour presence at the plaza, cooking and feeding protesters.
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“This is the grill they took from us and threw it in a dumpster,” one of The Earls said. “And we had to climb in the dumpster to get it back. We had to climb in the dumpster to get our grill back. And this right here, from the love and support of the community and the public, they blessed us with another grill because they know what we’re doing.”
Asked about the video and the officers’ behavior, Mayor Muriel Bowser said camping is illegal in the District.
“I’ve learned that looking at these videos, sometimes you need to see what happens before it,” she said. “I know that the police were responding. We want to remind everybody to follow the instructions of the police, and certainly, our department investigates any use of force. So they will look at that closely.”
The incident drew the attention of D.C. Council Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Allen, who sent a letter to the police chief asking for an explanation.
In response to News4’s request for comment, a police department spokesman said, “We will provide a response to the council member’s letter before commenting to media.”
One protester who says he helped tend to injuries from the tent incident said police behavior at Black Lives Matter Plaza often becomes more aggressive in the overnight hours.