U.S. president Donald Trump said he would deploy the military if state officials didn't quell the violence amidst protests after George Floyd's death.
Military helicopters, vehicles and personnel began to descend on the streets of Washington, D.C., Monday night, hours after President Donald Trump promised to “dominate the streets” and beat back protesters who have demonstrated near the White House for several days.
Protesters lingered in the Lafayette Square area well past the 7 p.m. citywide curfew. Several of the demonstrators were seen being taken into custody, waiting for further processing.
By 9 p.m., there were reports of arrests happening throughout the city as some protesters started working their way back to the White House.
The arrests and military show of force occurred in the hours after law enforcement officers used shields and tear gas to clear protesters from a park across the street from the White House as Trump prepared to make comments in the Rose Garden.
His address came as hundreds of protesters surrounded the White House grounds for the fourth day of protests in Washington.
The Department of Justice later issued a statement saying Trump directed Attorney General Wiliam Barr “assist in the restoration of order to the District of Columbia.”
The statement went on to say that several federal agencies, including the FBI, ATF and DEA, were coordinating to “maximize federal security presence” in DC.
Monday's demonstrations marked a week after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis set off protests and riots in that city and dozens of others across the nation. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been charged in Floyd's death.
At about 6:30 p.m., law enforcement officers cleared Lafayette Park with tear gas, rubber bullets, shields and horses. Trump had yet to appear for his comments as the protesters, who at the time were peaceful, were being pushed back.
At 6:44 p.m., Trump began his comments by pledging to be a “law and order” president as officers continued to push protesters blocks away from where he was standing, using some form of projectile.
Trump announced his plan to “mobilize” federal resources to “stop the rioting and looting.” He said the goal was to “dominate the streets.”
As Trump promised to stop the protests and specifically said the D.C. protests would be controlled, protesters nearby continued to be pushed back.
Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU's National Security Project, said Trump's threat to invoke the Insurrection Act and dispatch the military to America's streets would be “irresponsible and dangerous.”
“No level-headed governor is asking for an even more militarized response to civilian protests against police brutality and systemic racism — for good reason. There are already many reports of civilian police and some state National Guard forces engaging in serious abuses, and the deployment of military personnel, who are generally not trained for civilian law enforcement, only escalates the risks. This president must not cause the country and its people even more harm.”
Monday's protests came after a weekend of rioting in the nation’s capital left deep scars in the shadow of the White House and across the city, where 88 people were arrested and dozens of law enforcement officers, including Secret Service agents, were injured.
The smoldering aftermath resembled ugly scenes in cities across the country following Floyd's death. Sunrise yielded smashed storefronts, heaps of shattered glass and iconic national monuments stained by graffiti.
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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a curfew Monday beginning at 7 p.m. and continuing for two days.
Protesters returned that afternoon to the White House to chant against both Trump and police brutality. Some were handing out water and others were selling masks that read “I can't breathe,” a reference to what Floyd was telling the arresting officers as he was dying.
Lafayette Park, a primary protesting site through the weekend, was closed off Monday. Still, several hundreds of protesters gathered in the area to chant “Black Lives Matter” and “Don't shoot” while facing officers guarding the park.
Monday marks the fourth day that the White House has been the focal point of the protesters, prompting an increased response from law enforcement agencies.
In response, Barr deployed federal riot teams to D.C.
Riot teams are being sent from the federal Bureau of Prisons, while the FBI also has directed its elite Hostage Rescue Unit to help, a senior Justice Department official said Monday.
To safeguard the White House complex, the Secret Service said it was working with both federal and local law enforcement agencies, including the National Guard, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, U.S. Park Police and Arlington County Police.
“The Secret Service respects the right to assemble,” the agency said in a statement. “Throughout these demonstrations, no individuals have crossed the White House fence line and no Secret Service protectees have been in danger.”
Through Saturday and early Sunday, more than 60 Secret Service Uniformed Division Officers and special agents suffered multiple injuries from bricks, rocks, bottles, fireworks and other items hurled at them.
“Secret Service personnel were also directly physically assaulted as they were kicked, punched, and exposed to bodily fluids,” the agency said. A total of 11 injured personnel were transported to a local hospital and treated for non-life threatening injuries.
Contributing: Bart Jansen, Kristine Phillips.
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