Even as the skies opened up and rain poured heavily in D.C., protesters stayed in place Thursday for the seventh night in a row to demand justice and change following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Participants were not deterred by the severe weather and continued to march downtown, WTOP’s Alejandro Alvarez reported.
Rain didn't stop protesters from lining D.C. streets Thursday. WTOP's Dave Dildine reports
There was no curfew Thursday in D.C., unlike the previous four days.
Protesters gathered throughout the day Thursday around D.C., from downtown to near the Friendship Heights Metro station.
Near the D.C.-Maryland border, protesters began organizing around midday. Wearing masks and holding signs with rallying cries for equality written on them, the protesters peacefully occupied several blocks of Wisconsin Avenue.
A group of protesters continues to grow at the Friendship Heights Metro Station in Maryland. The plan is to march to the National Cathedral in NW later in the afternoon @WTOPpic.twitter.com/2iMW9XOy5a
Demonstrators, many with their hands raised in the air, marched through Friendship Heights on Wisconsin Avenue Thursday.
In Northwest D.C., protesters organized a sit-in of Wisconsin Avenue near Tenleytown. WTOP’s Kate Ryan reported that police blocked traffic so the demonstration could be held.
NBC Washington’s Mark Segraves reported that police had left H Street in Northwest D.C. and were allowing people in cars to enter areas filled with protesters. Alvarez later reported that police had resumed coordinating traffic for protesters, though there were FBI agents in “tactical gear” watching the crowds.
There were what looked to be hundreds of protesters gathered in the area of 16th and H Street NW, near the temporary White House fencing, and people were gathered in a tight circle, according to Alvarez.
Alvarez, who has heavily covered the D.C. protests, said there seemed to be fewer protesters near the White House than in previous days.
On Thursday, the U.S. Secret Service announced it would be closing certain areas around the White House to increase security.
“The U.S. Secret Service, in coordination with the U.S. Park Police, is announcing the closure of the areas in and around the White House complex. These closures are in an effort to maintain the necessary security measures surrounding the White House complex, while also allowing for peaceful demonstration,” a Secret Service spokesperson said in a statement.
The Ellipse and its roadways, sidewalks and side panels, E Street and sidewalks between 15th and 17th Streets, Sherman Park and Hamilton Place, Pennsylvania Avenue between 15th and 17th streets will be closed until June 10, according to the Secret Service.
In Richmond, Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue would be taken down.
Monuments along the avenue have been rallying points during the protests, and they have been tagged with graffiti, including messages that say “end police brutality” and “stop white supremacy.”
“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,” D.C. Police Chief Peter 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.
ACLU sues Trump administration over clearing of protesters from Lafayette Square ahead of photo op
The lawsuit accuses Trump, Attorney General William Barr, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and others of violating the protesters’ right to free speech and assembly, along with violations of rights guaranteed to them under the Fourth Amendment.
National Guard departing DC
Bowser also thanked the governors of Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware for not sending National Guard troops to D.C. to quell the protests.
She once again called for D.C. statehood so that the nation’s capital would have autonomy over how the National Guard is deployed in the city. As it stands, the decision to deploy troops to the District is made on the federal level.
“The very first thing is we want troops from out-of-state out of Washington, D.C.,” Bowser said.
On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper reversed a decision that would have sent troops back to their home bases. Several hundred troops were sent to the area to assist in quelling violent protests in the area.
Hundreds of troops were told Thursday that they would be sent home, according to The Associated Press. Remaining troops are expected to be sent home in the next several days.
Democrats draw up police reform bills in Congress
Congressional Democrats, powered by the Congressional Black Caucus, are preparing a sweeping package of police reforms as pressure builds on the federal government to respond to the death of George Floyd and others in law enforcement interactions.
With the urgency of mass protests outside their doors, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are working furiously to draft what could become one of the most ambitious efforts in years to oversee the way law enforcement works. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California, both former presidential candidates, are expected to announce a package in coming days, with a House bill coming soon.
Both the Senate and House efforts are expected to include changes to police accountability laws, such as revising immunity provisions and creating a database of police use-of-force incidents. Revamped training requirements are planned, too, among them a ban on the use of choke holds. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has endorsed such a ban.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., knelt with his hands behind his back while other congressional lawmakers paused for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the amount of time Floyd was pinned down with a knee on his neck while in police custody — in the Capitol Building Visitor Center on Thursday.
WTOP’s Abigail Constantino, Thomas Robertson, Rick Massimo, Alejandro Alvarez, Kate Ryan and Will Vitka and The Associated Press contributed to this report.