Inside The DC Protests, Trump’s Demand for Domination Gives Way to Peaceful Discourse

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Tanks and soldiers loomed large around the White House last night, but the crowds of protestors north of Lafayette Square were peaceful and steadfast. “We can’t let up now,” said Rafael, 33, several hours after new charges were handed down in the police killing of George Floyd. “I’m glad the other officers in the case have been charged, but we need to keep this momentum going until they change the system. This can’t happen again. We have had enough.”

While high black fences and various forces—from the FBI, the US Marshals, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the ATF—surrounded the lawns along Pennsylvania Avenue as if in preparation for war, hundreds of protestors chanted for justice and safety. “All we want is the same thing you all want,” said Rafael. “The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Many protestors had been gassed by police officers on Monday night as President Trump made his way to a photo opportunity outside St. James Church. But the mood by the church yesterday evening was one of cautious optimism and determination. There was the sense not of a wave cresting, but of one beginning to swell. The news about the new Floyd arrests was good—but it was just a start. “These charges need to stick,” said Nicole, 29. “And the police need to be trained to treat us the same way they treat white people. End of story.”

Most of the protestors were in their 20s and 30s. About half were African-American, and they were the ones who lead chants of “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “Say his name: George Floyd. Say her name: Breonna Taylor.” White protestors chanted along as volunteers circulated through the crowds handing out water and protein bars. At one point an African-American pastor silenced the crowd and asked us all to kneel and sing “Amazing Grace.” Later, hundreds of protestors on bicycles whizzed through the streets of Capital Hill, chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “Vote him out.”

Things were more tense at the front lines, where angry protesters stood face-to-face with two rows of heavily armed soldiers in riot gear, with the protestors at times shouting things like “See me, man? I’m a human being! Just like you.” But the overall mood was calm. “The protestors don’t scare me,” said Cat, 27. She nodded at a tank that hulked nearby. “I’m more scared that there’s an excessive amount of police force being used against people who just want to be heard.”

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