DC protests over George Floyd’s death continue for second day, pepper spray deployed near White House

A demonstrator stands on U.S. Secret Service vehicle that has a broken windshield on Saturday, May 30, 2020, near the White House. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser called out claims made Saturday by President Donald Trump 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” if protesters angered by his response to George Floyd’s death had crossed the White House’s security fence as “gross.”

“I thought the president’s remarks were gross, as I did when he said, ‘if there’s looting there will be shooting.’ To make a reference to vicious dogs is now a subtle reminder to African Americans of segregationists who let dogs out on women, children and innocent people,” Bowser said during a news conference.

Trump tweeted Friday amid unrest in Minneapolis that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

“What used to be heard in dog whistles, we now hear from a bullhorn.” Bowser said.

Protesters in D.C. expressing their anger over George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer converged on the streets around the White House Friday night, at times clashing with Secret Service officials.

Protesters and police confront each other close to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on May 30. (WTOP/Alejandro Alvarez)

The protests continued on Saturday, according to WTOP’s Alejandro Alvarez who was with the crowd near the Capitol Building.

Hundreds were gathered between the Capitol dome and the reflecting pool, and they could be heard chanting “say his name, George Floyd.”

By about 3:30 p.m. Saturday, protesters began making their way west on Pennsylvania Ave. toward the White House, Alvarez tweeted.

Lafayette Park, the scene of Friday night’s protest, was closed on Saturday, so crowds gathered on the west side of the White House, along 17th Street NW, close to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Shortly after gathering around 4 p.m., the crowds moved past barrier fences, chanting “hands up, don’t shoot,” and approached Secret Service officers who raised their riot shields, according to video posted by Alvarez.

WTOP’s Dick Uliano reported from Northeast, close to the District’s line with Prince George’s County, where a car caravan made up of “several hundred vehicles,” each carrying multiple people, was preparing to make its way deeper into D.C. Uliano said the precise route had not been revealed, but the cars were planning to rendezvous close to police headquarters near Judiciary Square.

At about 5 p.m., Alvarez reported that there was a surge in the crowd that broke the stalemate between the police and protesters, and pepper spray was deployed, causing protesters to move back toward 17th Street NW.

Protesters gather near the Eisenhower Executive Office Building as Secret Service members block Pennsylvania Ave. near the White House on May 30. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Earlier Saturday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said police supported the Secret Service Friday night as the department had done before.

D.C. police coordinated with U.S. Park Police and the Secret Service “throughout the evening and night, and at no time was [D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham] concerned about losing control of protest activity in Washington, D.C.,” according to Bowser.

On Friday, Crowds started in the District’s Shaw neighborhood and walked south toward Lafayette Square park, across the street from the White House.

Reports said they dispersed after scuffling with the Secret Service, moving east toward Capitol Hill and others south toward L’Enfant Plaza.

Six people were arrested in protests outside the White House, the Secret Service said Saturday.

But Newsham said Saturday that his officer’s “did not make any arrests, we did not have any reported uses of force, and we did not have any injuries reported.”

WTOP’s Mitchell Miller reported that the tone of the protests intensified as the crowd moved from the intersection of 14th and U Street down to the White House.

Miller said that chants of “No justice, no peace” and “Hands up don’t shoot” echoed from the crowd, alongside signs reading “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe.”

WTOP’s Alejandro Alvarez tweeted from the scene on Pennsylvania Avenue:

Some Secret Service officials lined up across Pennsylvania Avenue, as well as outside the White House’s north lawn, after some protesters began throwing bottles and cans.

Alvarez reported that some protesters kicked down barriers, with a few even running into the road that lies between the White House and Lafayette Square park before Secret Service officials stopped them.

At least two American flags were doused with lighter fluid and burned amid a raucous atmosphere, according to Alvarez.

A more subdued mood took over once the protest migrated to the U.S. Capitol around 9 p.m.

A vigil was held there for Floyd while chants of “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “No justice, no peace” broke out.

One protester with a megaphone told the crowd that “This about the oppression of everyone — black people, brown people, poor people alike.”

“We all have to unite. Rebellion is as American as racism,” the protester continued.

According to Alvarez, the protest began to thin out after that point.

Newsham said Saturday that none of his officers were “involved in the line at the White House, I am convinced that there was sufficient personnel to handle the skirmishes that occurred there.”

Others moved on from the Capitol shortly before 9:30 p.m. and began heading toward Eastern Market.

The protests in D.C. were a part of demonstrations nationwide in multiple cities in response to Floyd’s death.

In Detroit, one person was killed Friday night after someone in an SUV fired shots into a crowd of people protesting.

In Atlanta, protests that started out peacefully turned violent Friday night as protesters smashed police cars and even set one on fire.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms passionately addressed the protesters at a news conference: “This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.”

“You are disgracing our city,” she told protesters.

“You are disgracing the life of George Floyd and every other person who has been killed in this country. We are better than this. We are better than this as a city. We are better than this as a country. Go home, go home.” Bottoms said.

Other major scenes throughout the country included protesters getting into confrontations with police in Phoenix, New York City and Houston, where a woman was taken into custody after she had tried to use a rifle to incite the crowd.

The epicenter of the nationwide protests in Minneapolis had the National Guard called in to help quell the city’s riots that had extended into its fourth day.

The Pentagon announced early Saturday morning that it has put military police on alert to go to be deployed to Minneapolis as well.

Floyd, 46, was killed on May 25 after police officer Derek Chauvin pinned him to the ground with his knee on his neck for several minutes.

Floyd was unarmed. Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine asked those taking part in his office’s Cure the Streets violence disruption program Friday to observe a moment of silence for the family of George Floyd.

WTOP’s Mitchell Miller, Alejandro Alvarez, Matt Small, Dan Friedell, Dick Uliano and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Stay with WTOP for the latest.

Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

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