Candy Chan reports on the latest developments in the nation’s capital.
The sixth day of protesting in D.C. saw the largest crowd met with the lowest number of arrests. In a press conference on Thursday, Chief of Police of the Metropolitan Police Department Peter Newsham said that multiple sources have suggested that a planned demonstration on Saturday will be one of the largest ones held in the city, but he expects the following protests to remain peaceful. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has also suspended the curfew that was effective from 7 pm through to 6 am the following morning.
More than a week after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officer Derek Chauvin, protests are still going strong across the nation. The protests in D.C. on Wednesday, the sixth day of protests, started at the Capitol and moved near the White House in the evening. These protests were noticeably less tense, as one street musician even led the crowd in a rendition of Bill Withers’s song “Lean on Me.”
Despite the mostly peaceful nature of the protests, access to Lafayette Square, where protesters and police officers clashed on previous evenings, was cut off as federal officials extended their barrier. When asked about the restricted access to the federal territory during the press briefing, Mayor Bowser replied, “Keep in mind that that’s the People’s house. It’s a sad commentary that the White House and its inhabitants have to be walled off.”
Bowser and Newsham also fielded several questions asking who made the orders to federal enforcement agents whose presence in the DC streets “feel[s] like an occupation.” Some federal assistance was requested by Newsham to help with traffic posts, while others were under the direction of Attorney General William Barr, according to Bowser.
The tension between Bowser and federal leadership regarding the expanded military assets in D.C. to quell protests was the main topic throughout the press briefing. Bowser said, “Obviously the very first thing is we want the military [and] we want troops from out of state out of Washington DC.”
Later on, in the press briefing, Newsham said, “After [federal enforcement officers] expanded their footprint into DC streets, there was a strong desire, by the mayor, to have them go back to the federal complex which they did, and they’ve done that this morning. So I think that we should call that a success.”
Bowser’s Call for Statehood
The militarization of the nation’s capital in response to the protests has been a topic of concern; the DC National Guard has asked for an investigation into the use of a low-flying helicopter to disperse protesters.
Bowser emphasized the necessity of D.C.’s statehood. “People have to understand the root cause and be willing to do something about the root cause,” she said. D.C.’s residents lack full representation in Congress, Bowser stated, and “until we fix that, we are subject to the whims of the federal government. Sometimes they’re benevolent and sometimes they’re not.”