Trump: Any DC autonomous zone ‘will be met with serious force’
President Trump on Tuesday threatened that protesters who attempted to establish an “autonomous zone” in the nation’s capital would be met with “serious force” following a night of protests near the White House.
“There will never be an ‘Autonomous Zone’ in Washington, D.C., as long as I’m your President. If they try they will be met with serious force!” Trump tweeted.
The threat came after tense demonstrations on Monday night where protesters attempted to topple a statue of President Jackson in Lafayette Square across the street from the White House.
Law enforcement intervened, deploying pepper spray and using force to disperse the protest before the statue could be pulled down.
The Washington Post reported that the letters “BHAZ” were spray-painted on the columns of St. John’s Church in the park and on a piece of plywood on H Street, an acronym for “Black House Autonomous Zone.”
The phrase appeared to be taking after the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, also known as the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, in Seattle that was established earlier this month amid protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
Protests have persisted over the last month in response to the police killing of George Floyd, with demonstrators calling for police reform and action to address racial injustice. The gatherings have evolved in recent days to target statues of Confederate leaders and other controversial historical figures.
The president has staunchly opposed the removal of statues or namesakes honoring Confederate leaders, citing national “heritage.”
Trump and conservative media have also focused extensively on the autonomous zone in Seattle, painting it as a bastion of lawlessness and calling for state and local leaders to forcibly break it up.
The protesters inside the autonomous zone can come and go as they please and are pushing for an overhaul of local law enforcement, with some advocating for decreased police funding in favor of community programs. But Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (D) said Monday that officials will move to disband the autonomous zone following two weekend shootings in the area.
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