Bowser, Trump trade barbs; DC not moving into Phase Two just yet

With St. John’s Church in the background, people walk under a new street sign on Friday, June 5, 2020, in Washington. “The section of 16th Street in front of the White House is now officially ‘Black Lives Matter Plaza,'” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser tweeted. The black and white sign was put up to mark the change. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

It was a busy Friday in D.C., from ongoing protests in response to the police-custody death of George Floyd, to continuing health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Ahead of the protests Friday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser named the section of 16th Street Northwest in front of the White House “Black Lives Matter Plaza.”

A black and white sign marking the change stands near St. John’s Episcopal Church at the corner of H Street Northwest, where President Donald Trump posed for a controversial photo after protesters were forced from Lafayette Park earlier this week. “Black Lives Matter” was also painted in enormous bright yellow letters on the street leading to the White House.

Though the move was widely cheered across social media, praise was not universal.

It was called a “performative distraction from real policy changes” by Black Lives Matter DC.

Bowser responded to the criticism during a news conference Friday.

“Black Lives Matter is very critical of police,” she said. “They’re critical of me. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t see them and support the things that will make our community safe. And that we don’t all have a larger responsibility in the nation’s capital to send that very clear message to our nation.”

During that same briefing, Bowser also provided an update on the District’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The city is still a couple of weeks away from possibly entering Phase Two.

DC’s Phase Two? Not so fast

D.C. officials are still working on how to make the decision to transition from Phase One to Phase Two of the reopening process during the coronavirus pandemic.

June 19 would be the earliest date the District could consider making a Phase Two recommendation, according to D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt.

But, things would have to “go our way,” Nesbitt said.

She said D.C. will present a dashboard — due to go live in the next few days — that will be part of monitoring the metrics required for Phase Two. Those metrics include 14 days of sustained decrease in community spread, low positivity rates in testing, less than 80% use in health care capacity and strong contact tracing.

“We want to see a transmission rate less than one for five days,” Nesbitt said. “In terms of testing capacity, we want a low positivity rate, or testing rate, to be less than 15% for seven days.”

“Having our health system capacity be less than 80% for 14 days is one of the observations we want to be able to make,” Nesbitt said.

She noted that D.C.’s public health capacity is tied to the ability to do contact tracing.

“Making a first contact attempt for a new positive cases within one day of us being notified of the case, and having that be over 90% of the time, and then a first contact attempt for close contacts of new positive cases, once we are aware of who those contacts are,” Nesbitt said.

“That means that once we have the list of the contacts from any positive case that we have been able to make contact with those individuals within two days of being notified of who they are, and having that occur 90% of the time.”

The District reported 79 new coronavirus cases Friday, for a total of 9,199 cases. In addition, four more D.C. residents died from COVID-19, bringing the total to 479. More information is available at D.C.’s website.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, raised concerns Friday about coronavirus spread during protests in an interview with WTOP. “The reasons for demonstrating are valid, yet the demonstration itself puts one at an additional risk,” Fauci said.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Bowser-Trump go back and forth

Bowser formally requested the removal of “all extraordinary federal law enforcement and military presence from our city” in a Friday morning letter to Trump.

The mayor has taken a hard line against what she sees as the militarization of D.C. She and police Chief Peter Newsham have pushed back against the expansion of federal officers onto District property, beyond Lafayette Square.

In her letter, which she also tweeted out, Bowser said she ended D.C.’s state of emergency related to the demonstrations, noting that the city’s police did not make a single arrest Wednesday night.

Bowser said that the city government was “well equipped” to handle peaceful protests without federal assistance.

The mayor also said that she continues to be concerned about the large number of unidentified federal personnel in the city, arguing that it could pose safety risks.

“The deployment of federal law enforcement personnel and equipment are inflaming demonstrators and adding to the grievances of those who, by and large, are peacefully protesting for change and for reforms to the racist and broken systems that are killing Black Americans,” Bowser said.

She added that the “multiplicity of forces can breed dangerous confusion.”

The mayor questioned why there were so many officers who “lack identifying insignia,” saying this was dangerous for personnel and protesters, and violated D.C. law.

“The safety and freedom of the residents and visitors to the District of Columbia is paramount,” Bowser said. “My view is that law enforcement should be in place to protect the rights of American citizens, not restrict them.”

Trump lashed out at Bowser on Twitter later Friday, calling her “incompetent” and accusing her of “looking for ‘handouts.'”

“If she doesn’t treat these men and women well, then we’ll bring in a different group of men and women!” Trump tweeted.

The mayor was asked about the president’s tweets at Friday’s news conference.

“You know the thing about the pot and the kettle?” Bowser responded.

Bowser also responded to Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee earlier Friday, who tweeted that the mayor was “kicking the Utah National Guard out of all D.C. hotels tomorrow. More than 1,200 troops from 10 states are being evicted. This is unacceptable.”

“Senator — until they are recalled home — which I have formally requested from the president, your troops are in D.C. hotels. However, D.C. residents cannot pay their hotel bills. The Army can clear that up with the hotel today, and we are willing to help,” Bowser tweeted.

Read Bowser’s letter below.

What happened Day 7

Without a curfew looming over protesters Thursday, they stayed out and were again peaceful.

Demonstrators were undeterred by severe weather in the evening.

Two National Guard troops were hospitalized after lightning struck at Lafayette Park. D.C. Fire and EMS said they got the call around midnight. Both troops were taken to the hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening.

There were no reports of injuries to protesters.

Newsham: Saturday protest may be ‘largest that we’ve had’ in DC

Local leaders said they are expecting even bigger demonstrations over the weekend.

“We have a lot of public, open-source information to suggest that the event on this upcoming Saturday may be one of the largest that we’ve had in the city,” Newsham said during a briefing Thursday.

“We expect that Saturday’s demonstration will, like I said, be more of the same peaceful demonstrators coming to exercise their First Amendment right in Washington, D.C.,” he said.

CBS News contributed to this report.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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