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Protesters take to streets amid rising scrutiny of police tactics

Thousands of people turned out in Washington, D.C., on Saturday for a major protest as demonstrations against police brutality and the death of George Floyd ramp up.

 

Officials prepared for the protests by closing a significant number of roads around the city's downtown area, with demonstrations in the nation's capital entering a second consecutive weekend.

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Protesters started to congregate on 16th Street and the newly named Black Lives Matter Plaza in northwest D.C. near the White House a couple of hours before noon.

Hundreds of demonstrators made their way to the Lincoln Memorial near midday. There, protests began in earnest around noon, with crowds of people saying Floyd's name and calling for an end to police brutality.

“Time after time, we see the murders. Racism didn’t just start. It’s just been filmed,” a speaker known as DJ Quicksilva told the crowd, The Washington Post reported. “Now that we see it, we’re still not getting the justice. This time we’re not going to stop fighting until we get a conviction.” 

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Just before 2 p.m., protesters started making their way to outside the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Nearby St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church was handing out water bottles and masks.

“Everybody’s so great. The marchers are so gracious, and we hope to be gracious too,” Frances D’Antuono, a longtime member of the parish, said.  

Despite 90-degree temperatures, thousands of people gathered for the march. The crowd stretched all the way to 2nd Street NE, several blocks away from Dirksen. Eventually, the massive contingent began to march, its end goal the White House.

Also marching to the White House were more than 1,000 people from Arlington, Va., located just across the Potomac River.

DCist reported that Arlington County Police were handing out water and snacks to protesters at the county courthouse where the march began.

Protesters lined the streets surrounding the White House each day this week, with the most significant confrontation coming Monday evening. Law enforcement officials fired chemical agents and used riot gear to sweep hundreds of demonstrators out of Lafayette Square a day after the downtown area saw violent clashes, looting and vandalism.

Protests have been almost exclusively peaceful during the second half of the week, with D.C. police reporting no arrests during demonstrations on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Still, D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said that Saturday's protests could bring record crowds.

"We anticipate the largest demonstrations with regards to numbers that we've seen in the city to date, and we anticipate that protesters will continue to be peaceful as they have been the past couple of days," Newsham said during a press conference Thursday, though he would not give a number estimate.

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In anticipation of the protests on Saturday, police closed a significant number of roads around the city's downtown area. The road closures will be in effect from 6 a.m. Saturday until midnight.

Road closures

On Friday, D.C. Mayor Muriel BowserMuriel BowserThe Hill's 12:30 Report: How to celebrate Thanksgiving safely Governors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience MORE (D) had "Black Lives Matter" painted in big yellow letters across two blocks of 16th Street NW across from the White House while renaming the portion of the street Black Lives Matter Plaza.

NBC reporter Shomari Stone tweeted late Friday that a new installment had been made in the area per Bowser's instructions.

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"The Mayor installed new Black Lives Matter light projections near the White House," he tweeted. "They’re on two buildings on the newly named Black Lives Matter Plaza."

At the beginning of the week, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rages against '60 Minutes' for interview with Krebs Cornyn spox: Neera Tanden has 'no chance' of being confirmed as Biden's OMB pick Pa. lawmaker was informed of positive coronavirus test while meeting with Trump: report MORE activated the D.C. National Guard to protect the White House and areas surrounding the National Mall after vandalism and clashes with police last weekend.

In a letter to Trump on Friday, Bowser requested that the president immediately "withdraw all extraordinary federal law enforcement and military presence" from the city.

She explained that the curfew that had been in place for several days earlier in the week was being lifted, noting that not a single arrest had been made Thursday night related to the protests.

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"The deployment of federal law enforcement personnel and equipment are inflaming demonstrators and adding to the grievances of those who, by and large, are peacefully protesting for change and reforms to the racist and broken systems that are killing Black Americans," she said.

Trump has repeatedly lobbed insults at the mayor and criticized her handling of demonstrations in the city. On Friday, in response to her letter, Trump called Bowser "incompetent" in a tweet and asserted that her budget for the city was "totally out of control." He claimed that the National Guard deployment "saved her from great embarrassment" this week.

Saturday's protest in the nation's capital — joined by related demonstrations in countries around the world such as Australia, Japan and South Korea — come amid rising scrutiny of police tactics following the death of Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis police custody on May 25.

Since then, protests have rocked the country, with demonstrators condemning racial injustice while calling for police reforms. Some have also urged for an outright ban on funds for law enforcement agencies.

In Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed, City Council members voted Friday on a series of changes to the city's police force, barring officers from using chokeholds and requiring bystanding officers to intervene when illegal force is used.

Officials in multiple cities including Atlanta, Buffalo, N.Y., and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., have fired, suspended or taken other action against police officers involved in confrontations with individuals protesting since Floyd's death.

In New York, police announced Friday night that two officers were being suspended without pay after one was seen on video pulling down a protester's face covering to pepper spray them and the other was seen throwing a woman to the ground where she lay holding her head.

"These incidents ... are disturbing and run counter to the principles of NYPD training, as well as our mission of public safety," New York Police Department Commissioner Dermot Shea said in a statement announcing the disciplinary action. 

Here's the full list of road closures in D.C. on Saturday:

  • Constitution Avenue from Pennsylvania Avenue NW to 19th Street NW
  • Pennsylvania Avenue from 3rd Street NW to 15th Street NW
  • Pennsylvania Avenue from 17th Street NW to 19th Street NW
  • Indiana Avenue from 6th Street NW to 7th Street NW
  • Jefferson Drive SW from 3rd Street to 14th Street SW
  • Madison Drive NW from 3rd Street to 14th Street NW
  • C Street from 17th Street NW to 19th Street NW
  • C Street from 3rd Street NW to 6th Street NW
  • D Street from 3rd Street NW to 8th Street NW
  • D Street from 17th Street NW to 19th Street NW
  • E Street from 7th Street NW to 19th Street NW
  • F Street from 7th Street NW to 19th Street NW
  • G Street from 7th Street NW to 19th Street NW
  • H Street from 7th Street NW to 19th Street NW
  • I Street from New York Avenue NW to 19th Street NW
  • K Street from 9th Street NW to 19th Street NW
  • Connecticut Avenue from H Street NW to L Street NW
  • Vermont Avenue from H Street NW to L Street NW
  • New York Avenue from 9th Street NW to 15th Street NW
  • New York Avenue from 17th Street NW to 18th Street NW
  • 18th Street from Constitution Avenue NW to L Street NW
  • 17th Street from Constitution Avenue NW to L Street NW
  • 16th Street From H Street NW to L Street NW
  • 15th Street from Independence Avenue SW to L Street NW
  • 14th Street from Independence Avenue SW to L Street NW
  • 12th Street from Constitution Avenue NW to L Street NW
  • 12th Street Tunnel
  • 11th Street from Constitution Avenue NW to L Street NW
  • 10th Street from Constitution Avenue NW to L Street NW
  • 9th Street from Constitution Avenue NW to Massachusetts Avenue NW
  • 9th Street Tunnel
  • 7th Street from Independence Avenue SW to E Street NW
  • 6th Street from Constitution Avenue NW to E Street NW
  • 4th Street from Independence Avenue SW to Pennsylvania Avenue NW
  • Constitution Avenue from Pennsylvania Avenue NW to 17th Street NW
  • Pennsylvania Avenue from 3rd Street NW to 15th Street NW
  • Independence Avenue from 3rd Street NW to 14th Street SW
  • Connecticut Avenue from I Street NW to H Street NW
  • Vermont Avenue from I Street NW to H Street NW
  • I Street from 14th Street NW to 17th Street NW
  • H Street from 14th Street NW to 17th Street NW
  • K Street from 14th Street NW to 17th Street NW
  • New York Avenue from 14th Street NW to 15th Street NW
  • 17th Street from Constitution Avenue NW to K Street NW
  • 16th Street From H Street NW to K Street NW
  • 15th Street from Constitution Avenue NW to K Street NW
  • 14th Street from Independence Avenue SW to K Street NW
  • 12th Street from Constitution Avenue NW to Pennsylvania Avenue NW
  • 10th Street from Constitution Avenue NW to Pennsylvania Avenue NW
  • 9th Street from Constitution Avenue NW to Pennsylvania Avenue NW
  • 7th Street from Independence Avenue SW to Pennsylvania Avenue NW
  • 6th Street from Constitution Avenue NW to Pennsylvania Avenue NW
  • 4th Street from Independence Avenue SW to Pennsylvania Avenue NW
  • 3rd Street from Independence Avenue SW to Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Updated: 3:11 p.m.