After a night of conflict in D.C. that followed a day of rallies supporting outgoing President Donald Trump’s attempts to challenge the results of November’s election, leaders of Black Lives Matter DC challenged how Mayor Muriel Bowser and the local police handled the event and its aftermath.
On Sunday, Nee Nee Taylor, a co-organizer with Black Lives Matter DC, was asked about the widely-circulated video of pro-Trump demonstrators burning a Black Lives Matter sign taken from a local church.
Taylor told WTOP she and her fellow racial justice demonstrators want the section of 16th Street NW just past Lafayette Square, known as Black Lives Matter Plaza, to be a safe space.
“We want to advocate for BLM Plaza to be safe and express the values of what it means to us,” Taylor said.
She said members of Black Lives Matters in D.C. decided their presence in the plaza was important because during recent pro-Trump events, the fence on the north side of the park adorned with protest artwork and posters, known as the BLM Memorial Wall, has been threatened.
“We agreed to take shifts all day,” she said. “We were there all day, and just kept getting encountered.”
Taylor said even though streets around the plaza and park had been closed, and Trump supporters could not get close to the White House, it did not prevent people who wanted to be antagonistic from entering the area.
“I would ask the police, ‘Why are you allowing them to incite violence?,'” Taylor said. “They were coming to harass us and threaten us.”
She said she was “heartbroken” that “the police gave the Proud Boys and Trump supporters free will to do whatever they wanted in D.C.”
Taylor said Bowser could have done more to make sure Saturday’s events took place safely.
“I hold Mayor Bowser responsible for this,” she said.
Taylor alleged that the pro-Trump protesters were able to do things like destroy Black Lives Matter signs because they were white.
“If Black people and people of color was to act like this, they would have done what they’ve been doing since [the] George Floyd protests started. Tear gassing us, beating us and arresting us. That happened to none of the Proud Boys. The police was around and they done nothing to the white supremacists.”
Taylor warned that the clashes between white supremacist groups and racial justice protesters will continue, even with Joe Biden’s election win and a new administration, unless changes happen on the local level.
“We have to invest into things that keep people safe: housing, health care, jobs, better schools, mental health. That’s where money needs to go, so we can build communities that can empower people and make a better world,” Taylor said. “If we all can eat and sleep and have jobs and health care, the world will be a better place.”
WTOP has contacted D.C. police for comment.
During and after Saturday’s rally, fights broke out between pro-Trump and anti-Trump demonstrators. Some of those pro-Trump demonstrators were identified as Proud Boys, an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center labels a hate group.
Four people were stabbed and are in nonlife threatening condition, one of them an officer, D.C. police told WTOP.
Police arrested 33 people for various offenses, such as assault on a police officer, simple assault, riotous acts, possession of a prohibited weapon and crossing a police line, according to D.C. police data.
The gatherings of mostly unmasked Donald Trump loyalists were intended as a show of force just two days before the Electoral College meets to formally elect Joe Biden as the 46th president.
WTOP’s Valerie Bonk contributed to this report.