After week of clashes over DC statues, protests continue into weekend

The Emancipation Memorial in D.C.’s Lincoln Park depicts a freed slave kneeling at the feet of President Abraham Lincoln, Thursday, June 25, 2020. Calls are intensifying for the removal of the statue as the nation confronts racial injustice. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Protesters continued to gather Friday around D.C. a month after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

The ongoing demonstrations Friday included a gathering at Lincoln Park, demanding the removal of the nearly 150-year-old Emancipation Memorial, which depicts President Abraham Lincoln standing over a kneeling, freed slave.

The Freedom Neighborhood, which hosted the gathering, wrote on Instagram that the statue “embodies the racial undertones of Black people being inferior to white people,” and called for the statue’s removal.

WTOP’s Ken Duffy said he spoke to the leader of The Freedom Neighborhood, who said they would advocate removing the statue without the use of force.

Duffy reported that a crowd of people gathered in Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House and looked to be prepared for another long night of protesting, despite the barricades and safety fencing set up around Lafayette Park.

Duffy estimated that Friday’s crowds were bigger than Thursday’s, with some people coming in from the surrounding areas to take part in the protests.

Earlier in the day, there was a caravan protest near Union Market in Northeast D.C. advocating for the equal treatment of Black transgender people. D.C.-based organizers No Justice No Pride called attention to the deaths of Black transgender women in the District last year.

Friday’s protest also had some tense moments in Lincoln Park, including some heated exchanges and an alleged white supremacist chased from the park, before a chant of “power the people” signaled the next phase of the demonstration.

From Capitol Hill, the protesters migrated downtown and shut down traffic blocks from the White House.

The protests around the District are close to entering their second month, and all signs indicate that they will go on into the immediate future.

Throughout the week, demonstrators have clashed with police and public officials as they advocate for police reform and the removal of symbols of oppression, slavery and the Confederacy in D.C.

Last Friday, after a peaceful day of Juneteenth celebrations, protesters pulled down and burned a statue of Albert Pike, a Confederate brigadier general, in Judiciary Square.

Then, on Monday night, protesters set their sights on a statue near the White House honoring former President Andrew Jackson — who was a slaveholder and oversaw the forcible removal of Native Americans from the South — and the Emancipation Memorial in Lincoln Park.

The protesters attempted to pull down the statue to Jackson with ropes and chains, but were repelled by law enforcement using crowd dispersal tactics.

President Donald Trump, who chose to hang Jackson’s portrait in the Oval Office, tweeted a wanted poster featuring multiple suspects believed to be involved in the attempt to topple the statue with the threat of up to 10 years in prison for those found guilty of vandalizing monuments.

Trump later announced via Twitter that he signed an executive order “protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues – and combatting recent Criminal Violence.”

The order calls on the attorney general to prosecute any person or group that destroys or vandalizes a monument, memorial or statue to the fullest extent of the law. Federal law authorizes a penalty of up to 10 years in prison for the “willful injury” of federal property.

Heavy fencing and barricades have been erected around the statues in D.C. Unarmed National Guardsmen were also sent to provide extra security for the monuments this week.

WTOP’s Ken Duffy and the Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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