“DC police tripled arrests in protest crackdown after declaring curfew”
June 2, 2020 | 2:25pm | Updated June 2, 2020 | 3:35pm
A demonstrator is arrested by police near the White House in Washington on Monday after a curfew took effect during a protest over the death of George Floyd.
Police in the nation’s capital more than tripled arrests of activists Monday night while enforcing a new 7 p.m. curfew intended to curb property damage.
DC Police Chief Peter Newsham said at a press conference Tuesday that more than 300 people were arrested in the protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minnesota police, a dramatic uptick from 88 on Sunday night and 18 on Saturday.
“The arrests were essentially to prevent the extreme violence and destruction that I know was heartbreaking to everyone in this room,” Newsham said.
The curfew imposed by Mayor Muriel Bowser took effect before sunset and resulted in the mass arrest of 54 people at an intersection near the White House and later 194 people on a residential street one mile north. Earlier in the day, President Trump said the curfew would be strictly enforced after scenes of lawlessness the prior two nights.
Residents of the scenic ginkgo tree-lined block of townhomes that was the site of the largest mass arrest invited dozens of the trapped marchers into their homes and refused to allow officers to arrest them. Many escaped out back doors or waited until 6 a.m. for the curfew to lift.
Newsham said he would investigate social media reports that homes were exposed to chemical irritants in an effort to smoke out activists. He said commanders on the scene told him that those reports were inaccurate.
In another part of the city Monday night, a defiant group of nearly 500 marchers, including former Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.), went through Chinatown and saw the first use of low-flying federal helicopters as crowd control, generating wind that stirred up debris and made it difficult to stand. One tree snapped from the wind.
When the helicopters departed, activists proceeded to spray-paint a courthouse and smash the headquarters of the Teamsters union near the US Capitol before being repelled by police. The Teamsters, like the AFL-CIO union, whose headquarters was set on fire Sunday, represent some law enforcement officers.
The downtown group inflicted some property damage on businesses while fleeing, including smashing a Nando’s restaurant. Police splintered the group near a boarded-up Apple Store that was looted Saturday, and at least one police vehicle pursued jogging protesters, rolled down a window and coated their faces with pepper spray.
Local officers were assisted by officers from the Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal agencies Monday night. Newsham said the helicopters used were federal property, and that if he was “asked in the future if that was a helpful tactic, my response would be ‘No.’”