Seventeen people were arrested and 11 D.C. police officers were hurt as a second night of protests over the Minneapolis killing of George Floyd brought tear gas, small fires and the National Guard to downtown D.C. Saturday night.
Demonstrations outside the White House were peaceful for hours Saturday afternoon. Then a “small number of people” grew violent, Chief of Police Peter Newsham said in an update Sunday.
Protesters threw objects at local and federal officers, and vandalized and looted businesses. Demonstrators set fire to scaffolding near The Hay-Adams hotel, sparking a dramatic blaze that D.C. firefighters were able to put out quickly. They also started fires in dumpsters and trashcans, spray painted police cars and shattered storefronts.
As officials prepared for a third night of demonstrations, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser expressed solidarity with protesters but urged them to protect, not destroy, the District.
“We certainly recognize and empathize with the outrage people feel following the killing in Minneapolis last week. The killing of George Floyd wasn’t the first. People are expressing outrage and demanding action,” she said. “We also recognize that we are proud of our city and do not want our city to be destroyed.”
All of the officers' injuries were considered non-life-threatening. One officer was in surgery after he was hit with a brick, injuring his leg.
A curfew has not been set for the District, as it has in other cities. The mayor said she did not believe a curfew would be effective.
"We know that the people who were disruptive last night were not likely curfew-followers," she said.
The mayor and police chief strongly countered President Donald Trump’s claim in a tweet that Bowser “wouldn't let the D.C. Police get involved." The Metropolitan Police Department and federal law enforcement are in constant communication about demonstrations in the city every day, Newsham said.
D.C. police gave the Secret Service riot gear that they didn’t have, including helmets, the chief said.
Three police vehicles were set on fire over the course of the night. There were 29 other vehicles damaged or spray painted.
"It was maddening to think anybody would destroy property, put officers in danger and put themselves in danger," Bowser said.
Police used pepper spray and sting bombs on demonstrators, Newsham said.
The D.C. National Guard assisted in the response.
Of the 17 people arrested, eight lived in D.C. or had ties to D.C., the police chief said. Three live in Alexandria; three had no fixed address; one lives in Chesterfield, Virginia; one lives in Woodbridge, Virginia; and police could not determine one person’s address.
Fourteen people were charged with rioting. Two were charged with burglary. And one was charged with simple assault.
Additional arrests are possible as police review footage from governmental and private security cameras. Anyone with footage that shows a crime is asked to contact police.
Bowser said she ventured into the city at about 3 a.m. to see for herself what had happened. She said she saw many places broken into and burglarized.
"We also saw a beautiful city downtown still standing," she said.
Bowser said she was worried about the effects the demonstrations could have on COVID-19 numbers. She said she fears there could be a spike in cases after witnessing protesters not wearing masks or social distancing.
"I think as a nation we have to be concerned about rebound," she said.
Outraged protesters also demonstrated in front of the White House Friday night.
Some protesters said Trump’s tweet calling Minneapolis protesters thugs fanned the flames. Protesters chanted "I can't breathe," "black lives matter" and "no justice, no peace."
“We are human beings that want justice for our people,” said Anzhane Laine.
Trump appeared to cheer on the tougher tactics being used by law enforcement to disperse protesters Saturday night. He commended National Guard troops deployed in Minneapolis, declaring “No games!” and he also said police in New York City “must be allowed to do their job!”
“Let New York’s Finest be New York’s Finest,” Trump said on Twitter after returning to the White House from Florida, where he watched the launch of a SpaceX rocket. He did not talk to reporters upon his return and it was not clear if he could hear the protest over the sound of his helicopter. But for at least part of the flight, televisions on Air Force One were turned to Fox News and its coverage of the protests.
Earlier in the day, he had belittled the protesters and pledged to “stop mob violence.”
“I stand before you as a friend and ally to every American seeking justice and peace, and I stand before you in firm opposition to anyone exploiting this tragedy to loot, rob, attack and menace,” the president said after watching the launch of a SpaceX rocket. “Healing, not hatred, justice, not chaos, are the missions at hand.”
While some protesters stayed near the White House, others marched through the streets. The mood was angry and several speakers implored marchers to remain peaceful.
The march paused between the the Washington Monument and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Demonstrators sat down in the street for a moment of silence lasting for the eight minutes or more that the Minneapolis police officer reportedly knelt on Floyd's neck.
In a series of tweets earlier Saturday, Trump doubted protesters' allegiance to Floyd’s memory, saying they were “professionally managed.” He offered no evidence to back his assertion, and the president even seemed to invite supporters to make their presence felt: “Tonight, I understand, is MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???”
Trump later rejected the suggestion that he was stoking a potential conflict between protesters and his supporters. “I was just asking. But I have no idea if they are going to be here," he said. “MAGA is Make America Great Again. By the way, they love African American people. They love black people.”
At Saturday's demonstration, there was no evidence of a counter-move by Trump supporters.
Trump said he had “watched every move” from inside the executive mansion during Friday's protest and “couldn't have felt more safe” as the Secret Service let the protesters carry on, “but whenever someone ... got too frisky or out of line, they would quickly come down on then, hard — didn't know what hit them.”
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf on Saturday called the protesters “criminals” who committed “acts of violence while hiding behind their First Amendment right of lawful protest.”
As he tweeted, Trump claimed that many Secret Service agents were “just waiting for action” and ready to unleash “the most vicious dogs, and the most ominous weapons, I have ever seen." His reference to “vicious dogs” potentially being sicced on protesters revisits images from the civil rights movement when marchers faced snarling police dogs and high-pressure fire hoses.
In a news conference Saturday, Bowser called Trump’s remarks “gross” and said the reference to attack dogs conjures up with the worst memories of the nation’s fight against segregation.
“I call upon our city and our nation to exercise restraint, great restraint, even as the president tries to divide us,” she said. “I feel like these comments are an attack on humanity, an attack on black America, and they make my city less safe.”
In contrast with the president’s tweets, the Secret Service said it “respects the right to assemble and we ask that individuals do so peacefully for the safety of all.”
Minneapolis police were trying to put Floyd in a squad car on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill when he stiffened up and fell to the ground, saying he was claustrophobic. Officer Derek Chauvin and officer Tou Thoa arrived to help and tried several times to get Floyd into the car, but he struggled, the criminal complaint said.
At one point, Chauvin pulled Floyd out of the passenger side of the car, and Floyd, who was handcuffed, went to the ground face down. Officer J.K. Kueng held Floyd's back and officer Thomas Lane held his legs, while Chauvin put his knee on Floyd's head and neck area, the complaint said.
Lane asked, “Should we roll him on his side?” Chauvin said, “No, staying put is where we got him." Lane said he was “worried about excited delirium or whatever," and Chauvin said, “That's why we have him on his stomach," according to the complaint.
After Floyd apparently stopped breathing, Lane again said again that he wanted to roll Chauvin onto his side. Kueng checked for a wrist pulse and said he could not find one, the complaint said.
In all, Chauvin had his knee on Floyd's neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds, including nearly three minutes after Floyd stopped moving and talking, according to the complaint.
Chauvin, 44, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the case, which sparked protests across the United States and fires and looting in Minneapolis. An attorney for Floyd’s family welcomed the arrest, but said he expected a more serious murder charge and wanted all the officers arrested.
Chauvin's attorney had no comment when reached by The Associated Press.
All four officers at the scene Monday were fired the next day.