Crowds Assemble Across Washington In Mass Demonstrations Against Police Violence
Since George Floyd's death in Minneapolis, few communities have teemed with such outspoken frustration as the city just outside President Trump's window — and that dissatisfaction was again on ample display Saturday in Washington, D.C.
Throngs of protesters gathered peacefully in front of the Lincoln Memorial by midday for a rally that was slated to be just the first of more than a dozen similar events at other major landmarks around the greater D.C. region on Saturday.
Thousands have already joined a massive demonstration across from the White House, overflowing a park and the intersection that has become a focal point of the district's protests over the death of George Floyd.
Floyd, a black man, was killed last month when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.
At one corner of the intersection is St. John's Church in Lafayette Square, the site of a controversial visit by the president on Monday in which peaceful protesters were tear-gassed in order to make way for his appearance there.
Now, with the blessing of city leaders such as Mayor Muriel Bowser — whom Trump has roundly criticized on Twitter — the stretch of street in front of the church has been officially renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza and now bears a two-block-long mural declaring the slogan in bold yellow letters.
The atmosphere of the protests was largely peaceful, joyful and optimistic. With temperatures approaching 90 degrees, participants handed one another water and passed around masks to help protect against the coronavirus.
The crowd rippled with chants of "no justice, no peace," and at one point broke into a rendition of "Lean on Me," which has become something of an unofficial anthem at protests in Washington since since local singer Kenny Sway led the crowd in a singalong Wednesday in front of the White House.
The show of law enforcement at the protest Saturday appeared lighter in comparison with other recent demonstrations in which large contingents of police and National Guard troops were deployed.
In previous days, troops in riot gear had stood shoulder to shoulder in Lafayette Square in front of the White House, but troops or police were not easily visible early Saturday afternoon. The presence of law enforcement also appeared diminished across much of the downtown perimeter as compared with earlier in the week.
Defense Department officials earlier this week ordered home some 1,600 active-duty soldiers who had been brought to military bases near D.C. The troops were never deployed in the nation's capital, though Trump had threatened to do so.
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