Hundreds of people gathered in Lafayette Park near the White House after marching in the nation’s capital to protest against the death of George Floyd while in police custody. (May 29)
WASHINGTON – Fires and break-ins were being reported near the White House Sunday night as the 11 p.m. curfew hit and protesters continued to demonstrate in the area.
Lafayette Park, near the White House, quickly became the scene of multiple fires that included a car. The Washington DC police also said there were reports of break-ins at two Target stores in the area.
Social media posts also showed graffiti on buildings and fireworks being set off just before the curfew took hold and well after it became official.
USA TODAY confirmed that an American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) building was set on fire and vandalized Sunday night.
The DC Fire and EMS Department tweeted about responding to that fire and a reported basement fire at the historic Saint John’s Church near the White House. The department tweeted that both fires were extinguished.
The late-night events come after a day of demonstrating at the nation’s capital near the as part of the nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd.
“There’s been way too many lives taken by police,” said Travis Sinclair, 29, Silver Spring, Md., a salesman at a private equity firm. “And there’s been little or no action taken against them … They can’t just keep killing people.”
Like others, Sinclair called for changes to the criminal justice system to handle cases against police officers who wield deadly force. For example, he called for the prosecution of Minneapolis officers who were seen standing around as a colleague had his knee on Floyd’s neck.
“Arrest, Charge & Convict The Accomplices,” said a sign carried by Sinclair.
Among other signs in the crowd: “Being Black Shouldn’t Be a Death Sentence” and “Abolish Qualified Immunity.”
Demonstrators said they came to the area near the White House to try and deliver a message to Trump personally, though they doubted he would be interested in heeding it.
“He hasn’t done anything for us,” Sinclair said, citing issues ranging from police brutality to the coronavirus pandemic. “He hasn’t done anything for anybody … Look at this crisis.”
As maintenance workers swept up shards of glass near the White House early Sunday, hours after protesters smashed windows and set buildings and cars on fire, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said members of law enforcement would work to quell the unrest that defined the demonstrations night before.
“We’re sending a very clear message to people that they have a right to exercise their First Amendment rights but not to destroy our city,” she told NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” “We saw a level of destruction and mayhem among some that was maddening.”
Jumana Ayni, 22, who attended the protest with her mother and a friend, said the damage caused at the end of Saturday’s protest was done by some who attended the protest for the “wrong reasons.”
“I feel like it’s a distraction,” she said as a group of young protesters sprayed graffiti on the sidewalk behind her. “You have some people who come out and get mixed up with those of us who are here to fight for justice, and they’re just here for the wrong reasons.”
For a moment on Sunday afternoon, tensions appeared to abate as hundreds of protesters took a knee and raised their fist in a moment of silence. But it wasn’t long before members of the crowd stormed through security barriers that lined the entrance of Lafayette Park. One protester began spraying graffiti on a sidewalk inside the park, daring the approaching police officers, dressed in riot gear.
As the swelling crowd moved further into the park, police at times dispersed pepper spray. By Sunday night, Mayor Bowser imposed an 11 p.m. curfew and activated the National Guard.
Cocoa Taylor, 40, a self-described worker who drove to the protest from Woodbridge, Va., said Trump may not listen to calls for justice, but others might. She also said many police departments may change because of the fallout from Floyd’s death.
“Maybe because the light is being shined so brightly this time, they will try,” Taylor said. “Hopefully, they’ll try.”
Chikondi Kulemeka, 23, a food company employee who lives in College Park, Md., was handing out water, snacks, sun screen and PPE masks to demonstrators, hoping to keep their energy to deliver their message.
“When I came here Friday night, I came to talk to Trump,” she said. “Today, I came down here to support my protesters.”
Washington D.C. police arrested 17 people after protests Saturday night.
The majority of those arrested were charged with rioting, while three were charged with burglary and simple assault, authorities said Sunday. Dozens of officers, mostly Secret Service personnel, were injured.
Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham said “agitators” threw bricks, bottles and incendiary devices at police officers. Many looted and vandalized businesses in the downtown area.
‘An enormous red flag’: After George Floyd’s death, some call for a broader federal investigation
Eleven police officers were injured. One officer suffered multiple compound fractures to his leg after he was hit with a brick near Lafayette Park. The officer was undergoing surgery Sunday.
Separately, the U.S. Secret Service said more than 60 uniformed officers and special agents were injured this weekend. Some were assaulted – “kicked, punched and exposed to bodily fluids,” officials said. Eleven were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
The Secret Service has arrested seven people near Pennsylvania Avenue since demonstrations began Friday. Officials said protesters vandalized six Secret Service vehicles, repeatedly tried to knock over security barriers, and threw bricks, rocks, bottles, fireworks and other items at Secret Service personnel.
Contributing: Kristine PhillipNicholas Wu, Maureen Groppe, Matthew Brown
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