Independence Day protests sprout up around DC, clash with celebrations

A protester holds an upside-down American flag inscribed with "Black lives matter," outside of the as it hosts an Independence Day celebration during ongoing protests on a section of 16th Street that's been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, Saturday, July 4, 2020, in Washington.(AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
A protester holds an upside-down American flag inscribed with “Black Lives Matter,” outside the White House as it hosts an Independence Day celebration during ongoing protests on at Black Lives Matter Plaza, Saturday, July 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

The White House, lit in red, white and blue for Independence Day, is seen through a security fence with pictures of slain Black Americans during ongoing protests on a section of 16th Street that's been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, Saturday, July 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
The White House, lit in red, white and blue for Independence Day, is seen through a security fence with pictures of slain Black Americans during ongoing protests at Black Lives Matter Plaza, Saturday, July 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

A protester wears a mask to curb the spread of the coronavirus as fighter jets fly over the White House during an Independence Day celebration during ongoing protests on a section of 16th Street that's been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, Saturday, July 4, 2020, in Washington.(AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
A protester wears a mask to curb the spread of the coronavirus as fighter jets fly over the White House during an Independence Day celebration during ongoing protests at Black Lives Matter Plaza, Saturday, July 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

A woman wears earrings depicting First Lady Michelle Obama during a protest against racial injustice outside the White House from a section of 16th Street that's been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, Saturday, July 4, 2020, in Washington.(AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
A woman wears earrings depicting First Lady Michelle Obama during a protest against racial injustice at Black Lives Matter Plaza, Saturday, July 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

A woman wears a face shield to curb the spread of the coronavirus while leading chants at a protest against racial injustice outside the White House in a section of 16th Street that's been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, Saturday, July 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
A woman wears a face shield to curb the spread of the coronavirus while leading chants at a protest against racial injustice in a section of 16th Street that’s been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, Saturday, July 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

A protester, left, hugs a woman after de-escalating a verbal altercation the woman tried to start with anti-racist protesters outside of the White House on a section of 16th Street that has been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, Saturday, July 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
A protester, left, hugs a woman after de-escalating a verbal altercation the woman tried to start with anti-racist protesters outside of the White House on a section of 16th Street that has been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, Saturday, July 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Woman under blue tent.
Demonstrators sitting on the ground near the U.S. Supreme Court to protest the killing of Breonna Taylor and other black women affected by police violence, Saturday, July 4, 2020. (WTOP/Andrea Cambron)

People filing in for the sit-in for Breonna Taylor and other black women affected by police violence at the U.S. Supreme Court, Saturday, July 4, 2020. (WTOP/Andrea Cambron)

occupy h street
The “Occupy H Street” tent encampment that D.C. police pushed out of their original location around noon on Saturday, July 4, 2020. (WTOP/Ken Duffy)

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A protester holds an upside-down American flag inscribed with "Black lives matter," outside of the as it hosts an Independence Day celebration during ongoing protests on a section of 16th Street that's been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, Saturday, July 4, 2020, in Washington.(AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
The White House, lit in red, white and blue for Independence Day, is seen through a security fence with pictures of slain Black Americans during ongoing protests on a section of 16th Street that's been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, Saturday, July 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
A protester wears a mask to curb the spread of the coronavirus as fighter jets fly over the White House during an Independence Day celebration during ongoing protests on a section of 16th Street that's been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, Saturday, July 4, 2020, in Washington.(AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
A woman wears earrings depicting First Lady Michelle Obama during a protest against racial injustice outside the White House from a section of 16th Street that's been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, Saturday, July 4, 2020, in Washington.(AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
A woman wears a face shield to curb the spread of the coronavirus while leading chants at a protest against racial injustice outside the White House in a section of 16th Street that's been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, Saturday, July 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
A protester, left, hugs a woman after de-escalating a verbal altercation the woman tried to start with anti-racist protesters outside of the White House on a section of 16th Street that has been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, Saturday, July 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
Woman under blue tent.
occupy h street

During the 244th birthday of America, amid grand displays of patriotism on the National Mall and at the White House, largely peaceful protests converged upon the festivities as a reminder of racial injustice in the country.

While the majority of the demonstrations were peaceful and without incident, an American flag burned outside Lafayette Square before the start of the annual fireworks display.

Members of the Revolutionist Communist Party, or RevCom, attempted to burn a few small American flags in that area just after 8 p.m., before they were confronted by other protesters, WTOP’s Alejandro Alvarez reported.

“This is what they want, don’t give it to them,” a demonstrator who intervened said. But RevCom ignited a larger flag minutes after arguments with other protesters who disagreed with the flag burning. As the flag burned, protesters chanted “slavery, genocide and war” and “America was never great.”

Just ahead of the 9 p.m. fireworks show, protesters marched from Black Lives Matter Plaza to the National Mall and wove between the hundreds of people sitting on the grass awaiting the show. Those protesting and celebrating came face to face when demonstrators shredded Trump flags on the mall during a confrontation, Alvarez reported.

Riot police occupied the Mall as the fireworks began. Over the booming pyrotechnics, protesters yelled “Black Lives Matter” while they marched on the Mall near the Washington Monument.

Protesters and trump supporters clashed with each out with verbal confrontations, leading to tense moments before being separated by U.S. Park Police. Some of the protesters returned to Black Lives Matter Plaza to congregate. Police cleared several people off the street.

Occupy H Street

Earlier in the day, a tent occupation was cleared by police at the epicenter of protests in D.C. near Black Lives Matter Plaza. Alvarez reported that around noon police moved in to try and clear the area at 16th Street and H Street.

The encampment has been dubbed “Occupy H Street” according to Alvarez, who added that no one was arrested or pepper sprayed as they were moved roughly a block away.

Ahead of the ‘Salute to America’ celebration on the National Mall — featuring a speech from the President, fireworks and a flyover — hundreds took to the streets early Saturday afternoon to march. Alvarez followed marchers through the Columbia Heights and Adams Morgan neighborhoods as the group chanted “no justice, no peace” and “fire fire, gentrifier.” Alvarez reported the march traveled through some of the District’s most heavily gentrified neighborhoods and were bringing attention to the issue of gentrification.

“For anybody who has lived in this city, you come down here, and you see a city that we’ve been priced out of. You come out here, and you see a city that has dramatically changed from the city that you grew up in. This is our city. These are our streets. The chocolate city is still chocolate,” said Tylik McMillan, an organizer with Concerned Citizens D.C.

McMillan spoke to the group of protesters through a megaphone in the Columbia heights area, and led protesters continued to march through Adams Morgan. Eventually, Alvarez said the group happened to run into Rahul Dubey, who sheltered protesters in his home during a June 1 clash between protesters and police on Swann Street.

The group gathered around Dubey and chanted “you’re a hero.”

“He is a hero, but he shouldn’t have had to be,” McMillan said. “We shouldn’t need any heroes for us to be able to peacefully exercise our First Amendment rights. We shouldn’t need any heroes to peacefully exist in these streets that we pay taxes to fund. We shouldn’t need heroes to protect us from the ones who that are supposed to protect and serve. That’s why we’re marching.”

Other protests sprouted up throughout the District during the holiday, with some disrupting traffic along major roadways.

WTOP’s Rob Stallworth reported that all traffic on the 14th Street Bridge was jammed due to peaceful protesters on the eastbound and westbound sides of Interstate 395, between the 14th Street and 11th Street bridges, as of 1:45 p.m. Saturday. About two hours later, demonstrators cleared the road and all lanes of traffic were opened.


Click here for the latest traffic information from the WTOP Traffic Center


Stallworth also reported that the southbound 3rd Street tunnel from New York Avenue was also closed due to demonstrations, with the westbound ramps to Maine Avenue blocked off as a result.

Student Sit-In

Earlier Saturday afternoon in the District, a sit in organized by law students from Howard University and University of D.C.

The goal of the demonstration, according to organizers who spoke with WTOP’s Andrea Cambron, was to bring attention to the black women and black transgender women who they said are killed at the same rates as black men.

“There are still people struggling, there are still people dying, there are still people that do not have the equality of rights that our founding document promised,” Renée McDonald Hutchins, dean of UDC Law School, said to those participating in the sit-in.

“And so we need to continue to fight, we need to continue to struggle we need to continue to stay in the streets until real progress is made.”

Hutchins urged those at the demonstration to not feed into a sense of hopelessness about their cause.

She said their work won’t be finished until the color of someone’s skin does not define a person’s outcomes in the criminal justice system, or until black and brown children no longer go to schools that are under resourced and neighborhoods are desegregated.

This is a developing story, stay with WTOP for the latest.

WTOP’s Alejandro Alvarez, Steve Dresner, Andrea Cambron, Ken Duffy and Rob Stallworth contributed to this report.

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