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Crowds Assemble Across Washington In Mass Demonstrations Against Police Violence

Jun 6, 2020
Originally published on June 7, 2020 12:25 pm

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.

Rico Silva speaks to the crowd gathered at the Lincoln Memorial, during a peaceful protest against police brutality Saturday in Washington, D.C.
Tyrone Turner/WAMU

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.

Protestors walk over a mural that reads "BLACK LIVES MATTER" in yellow capital letters down a two-block stretch of 16th street that Mayor Muriel Bowser officially renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza.
Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR
Thousands of people took the streets to march to Capitol Hill following a protest at the Dirksen Senate Office Building to protest the death of George Floyd.
Eman Mohammed for NPR

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.

A sign language interpreter translates the protest chants following a demonstration at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Saturday.
Eman Mohammed for NPR
People gather in front of the Lincoln Memorial following a protest at the Dirksen Senate Office Building. 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.
Eman Mohammed for NPR
Thousands of people marched in Washington, D.C., to protest the death of George Floyd. 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.
Eman Mohammed for NPR

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.

Protesters Heyssis Castillo and Katherine Bonilla (center left and right) demonstrate in front of the Capitol on Saturday.
Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR
Thousands of people took the streets to march in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.
Eman Mohammed for NPR

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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Pastor Shawn Woodward of Highway Christian Church of Christ in Washington, D.C., encourages football players from Watkins Elementary School to work hard at school and to aim high in life on Saturday.
Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR