D.C. police Chief Peter Newsham estimated there were around 5,000 demonstrators. He said there were zero arrests, no damage to police property and no officers were injured either.
“Moving forward over the next couple of days, we expect more of the same,” he said.
“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. 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.,” Newsham said.
During the briefing Thursday, Bowser also said she wants non-D.C. troops out of the city.
“The very first thing is we want troops from out of state out of Washington, D.C.,” she said.
Bowser took a hard line against what she sees as the militarization of the District, thanking Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who she said was going to raise those concerns.
“I want to thank the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, for reaching out to the District and also for the communications that she will make on not just our behalf, but on behalf of the American people about military assets in Washington, D.C.,” Bowser said.
Both Newsham and Bowser have pushed back against the expansion of federal officers onto District property, beyond Lafayette Square.
“Peter Newsham controls the Metropolitan Police Department. He works with federal partners and there are particular ones that he has requested to help us with traffic posts,” Bowser said. “And then there are other federal military assets that we did not request that we understand are under the direction of the Attorney General (William) Barr.”
She commented on members of Maryland’s National Guard being in D.C., ostensibly to guard monuments.
“I have not talked to Gov. Hogan,” Bowser said.
“He says you approved his mission,” a reporter said.
“I can’t approve his mission,” Bowser shot back. “Let me explain to you how this how this works. If I wanted troops from Maryland to come into the District, we are a member of a compact, which allows me to make that request specifically to any state National Guard to do that. I have not done that for any state.”
Hogan said Wednesday that Defense Secretary Mark Esper called him directly to request guard members, because he did not want to use active duty military during protests in the nation’s capital.
Hogan said Maryland’s guard members had nothing to do with the dispersal of protesters near the White House on Monday.
Newsham noted that D.C. has a “collaborative agreement” with various agencies.
“If the federal government expands their footprint, we’re obviously not going to get into a physical conflict over that,” he said. “I think that’s more of a legal battle that may have to play out, moving forward into the future, particularly, as the mayor mentioned, in the middle of a public safety concern for the city.”
“We were successful in getting them to move back, and I think we should all be very pleased about at least that,” he said.
Bowser has been “adamant” about making sure District residents don’t have their freedoms restricted, Newsham said.
The mayor repeated her call for D.C. statehood after a reporter said it was frustrating for media to try to figure who is “calling the shots” on policing in the District.
“I just hope that each take some of that frustration and channel it into your coverage of D.C. statehood, and why we need to be autonomous,” she said. “So, I’m looking forward to that.”
Demonstrators marched to the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, demanding that laws be changed to prevent more deaths like Floyd’s.
As the District’s 11 p.m. curfew went into effect, groups of protesters that had been marching throughout the city converged once again in the area of Lafayette Square near the White House, where they had protested earlier.
Some of them sang Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me” to cap the sixth day of protests, WTOP’s Alejandro Alvarez reported.
Night has fallen in DC and the massive crowd gathered at I and 16th streets have turned away from the lines of federal and military police in riot gear to raise their phones, lights on, and sing Bill Withers’ Lean On Me. pic.twitter.com/BGeWqgKZbf