Day by Day: the Past Week’s News on Demonstrations, Coronavirus & the Election
June 7, 2020
By Larry Janezich
There was almost too much news to track last week as news media attempted to cover three major local stories – the demonstration, the COV-19 response, and DC’s primary election. What follows is a chronology of significant events as they unfolded since last Sunday.
Sunday, May 31 – Third night of protests – 90 arrests.
- Mayor Bowser orders a curfew for the District of Columbia from 11:00pm on Sunday, May 31, until 6:00pm on Monday, June 1. She also activated the DC National Guard to support the Metropolitan Police Department. Restaurants, open for outside dining, were urged by business organizations to close early and take precautions against vandalism and looting. Bowser said in response to a question why there had been no curfew: “…protesters are not curfew respecters.”
- Protests which started in DC on Friday night, May 29, (the day the city began to reopen after the COV-19 shutdown) continued for a third night over the death on Memorial Day of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police while he was being arrested.
- The protests started out peacefully but became violent after dark. A number of businesses were vandalized and looted.
- A fire – cause undetermined – broke out in a basement room in historic St. John’s Church. Windows were smashed at AFL-CIO building and the lobby was damaged by protesters.
- MPD Police Chief Newsham noted use of incendiary devices by protesters. Says he has not seen that before.
Monday, June 1 – Fourth night of protests – 289 arrests.
- Mayor Bowser orders a 7:00pm – 6:00am curfew except for essential personnel and news media.
- Half an hour before the 7:00pm curfew the National Guard and US Park Polices cleared Lafayette Park of peaceful protesters, using tear gas and rubber projectiles. The President walked through the emptied park to provide a photo op in front of St. John’s Church. In a conference call earlier in the day, the president urged governors to dominate the streets.
- Vandalism and looting occurred in downtown DC, Georgetown, Cleveland Park, Tenleytown, Friendship Heights, Capitol Hill, and H Street, NE. Nine MPD vehicles were damaged.
- MPD made mass arrests on 1400 block of Swann Street.
- MPD uses munitions – gas and projectiles – against demonstrators near MPD headquarters near Judiciary Square.
- MPD Police Chief says the protester’s tactics appeared organized in nature.
- The President threatened to deploy troops to restore order.
- Two National Guard helicopters hovered at near tree-top level over protesters to aid in disruption and disbursement efforts.
- Overnight, security personnel begin fencing off Lafayette Square.
Tuesday, June 2 – Fifth night of protest – 29 arrests.
- The Mayor ordered the curfew from 7:00pm – 6:00am continued. Residents voting in today’s primary are exempt from the curfew, along with essential personnel and news media.
- Protesters continued to assemble peaceably at the Lafayette fences well after the 7:00pm curfew.
- The numbers of protesters grew as did the number of federal resources, as agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies were deployed in the District.
- The federal government seemed prepared to take over the DC Metropolitan Police Department but received strong push back from Mayor Bowser. Mayor said DC doesn’t want any military or federal police presence on DC streets.
- CM Charles Allen told the WP that the effort to take over MPD was “nothing short of despicable” and in that event, hoped “DC police officers would object and stand down.”
- In a statement from United States Park Police acting Chief Gregory T. Monahan claimed: “USPP officers and other assisting law enforcement partners did not use tear gas or OC Skat Shells to close the area at Lafayette Park.”
- Dozens of troops from the National Guard stood on the steps on the Lincoln Memorial during protests.
- The Mayor expresses concern that protests will result in a spike in the cases of COVid-19 infections. Says the city has to balance First Amendment rights against the health effects of mass gatherings.
- DC holds primary elections with long lines – some lasting until after midnight – at a reduced number of polling places after residents failed to receive requested ballots. Bowser later terms the mail in balloting effort a failure. Bowser ally Ward 4 CM Brandon Todd lost in his primary contest for reelection to the DC Council, as did former Ward 2 Council Member Jack Evans.
Wednesday, June 3 – Sixth night of protest – 0 arrests.
- The Mayor pushed the curfew pushed back to 11:00pm.
- Protests continue in multiple locations across the city, including 14th and U Streets, NW; near Lafayette Park, and at the US Capitol. Businesses continue to take protective measures.
- The administration sends elements of the Border Patrol to DC.
- Bowser questions President’s authority to send troops and National Guard from other states to DC.
- Defense Secretary Esper said that the president’s proposed use of military troops against civil unrest is unnecessary at this time.
- Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, writing in the Atlantic Monthly strongly criticized the president.
- Mayor Bowser calls the District’s mail in ballot election “nothing short of a failed execution.”
- MPD Police Chief Newsham pushes back on claims in legacy and social media about rough treatment of protesters who were arrested on Swann Street Monday night, citing the lack or injuries or resistance to arrest. Newsham said earlier action by crowd in launching “projectiles” and involvement in the burning of an MPD vehicle prior to the mass arrests on Swann Street lead to the mass arrests.
Thursday, June 4 – Seventh night of protests – 0 arrests.
- No curfew.
- Multiple peaceful demonstrations in multiple locations across the city.
- MPD expects larger demonstrations on Saturday.
- Mayor Bower said that the federal government had acceded to the city’s request to pull the federal security perimeter which had extended to K Street north of the White House back to Lafayette Park.
- The Secret Service said in a statement that the entire area around the “White House complex” will remain closed until June 10.
Friday, June 5 – 8th day of protests in DC – 0 arrests.
- No curfew.
- Mayor Bowser renamed 16th Street between H and K Streets, NW, “Black Lives Matter Plaza” and designated the two blocks with street-wide yellow letters.
- The Pentagon disarmed National Guard in DC and issues send home orders for 5,000 active duty troops from DC and eleven states – stationed outside the city.
- US Park Police say it was a mistake to say tear gas was not used to clear Lafayette Square on Monday, acknowledging that the pepper gas from “pepper balls” falls within the definition.
- During the private meeting Friday morning MPD leaders told officers and cadets that if they were not troubled by what they saw happen to George Floyd to turn in their badges and guns. Pressed for details during the Mayor’s situational update, Chief Peter Newsham said it was a private meeting to let some members of the force know how the leadership felt about the events across the nation.
- Asked about the MPD deputizing members of the DC National Guard, Mayor Bowser said that had come at the request of the DC National Guard Commander General William Walker, adding, “We won’t be doing that anymore.”
- Bowser announced a fourth day of decline in the community spread of the coronavirus. 14 days of decline will be necessary before moving to Phase II of the reopening. It will be June 19th before the Department of Health will be able to make any recommendation regarding moving to Phase II.
- Select Fire Stations in Wards 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, and 8 will be offering free COV-19 testing next week. The Mayor urged people not delay in getting tested.
Saturday – Ninth day of protests – no arrests (so far).
- MPD started closing streets at 6:00am for a day of protests involving multiple organizations at multiple locations, including the Dirksen Senate Office Building, the U Street corridor, the Lincoln Memorial, Freedom Plaza, and the White House.
- The largest DC demonstration since they began nine days ago was peaceful and in some cases, festive, the mood a sharp departure from the confrontations evident earlier in the week.
- There was a marked reduction in police presence on the streets.
- Black Lives Matter has announced repeatedly it is not behind the protests.
- Standing in the newly designated Black Lives Matter Plaza, Mayor Bowser continued to react to the presence of out of state National Guard in DC: “… if they can take over Washington DC, they can come for any state and none of us will be safe. So today, we pushed the army away from our city. Our soldiers should not be treated that way. They should not be asked to move on American citizens….Today we say no. In November, we say next.”
- General William Walker of the DC National Guard announced the 4,000 National Guard troops brought into the DC area to support police and federal resources could go home as of Monday. He said there will be full investigation of the use of National Guard helicopters over protesters Monday night. According to the Washington Post, the National Guard helicopters have been grounded in the interim.