Coronavirus in DC

Tensions Between Police, DC Residents During Pandemic

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D.C. police officers and residents have traded blows in several violent incidents captured on cellphone video across the District, and some neighborhood leaders are calling for change.

While the circumstances surrounding each incident are different, they each illustrate the ongoing tension between police and some communities of color and how that tension is compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the whole social distancing enforcement, we’re seeing it more being enforced on black people, just being very blunt, and everyone in our communities has taken notice,” said community activist Anthony Lorenzo Green, who is running for D.C. Council in Ward 7.

Seeing video of a brawl in Trinidad reminds Green of the community’s troubled history with the Metropolitan Police Department.

He said residents are angry, hurting and fed up with being ignored.

“It takes a lot to get black folks to rise up and say, ‘You know what? Not today,” Green said. “And when people get to that breaking point, that’s where we see more of the community wake up and start asking questions.”

Clay Wendell, 30, was arrested after punching an officer who was trying break up a large gathering in Southeast, police said.

Speaking earlier this week Chief Peter Newsham and Mayor Muriel Bowser said the department would continue to enforce social distance rules.

“When you see a pd officer who gets punched in the face, our police officers are willing to do that in order to ensure that everybody is safe during this public health emergency,” Newsham said.

“Anyone who is going to be willing to assault one of our officers is going to have to be dealt with,” Bowser said. “It’s just that simple.”

Green said he fears more incidents are coming unless something changes. He’s calling on the mayor to come up with a different tactic to enforce social distancing

“I want us to get beyond just seeing people throwing fists at the police and get to the beginning of it,” he said. “Let’s get to why that happens and why it takes so much for anybody to get that point and try to find ways that we can heal it.”

News4 reached out to police to see if any further arrests have been made after these incidents.

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