Hours ahead of a planned protest targeting the Key Bridge, Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) warned that police are prepared to enforce city laws should protesters attempt to block rush hour traffic.
”We will see how it goes,” Gray said during a morning interview on NewsChannel 8.”If it becomes a situation that is unmanageable, then we’ll take steps other than what we’ve taken thus far.”
To date, local and federal authorities have largely taken a hands-off posture toward protesters encamped downtown in McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza. Despite a Nov. 4 clash with police outside the Washington Convention Center, Gray and other local politicians have spoken out in favor of allowing the protests to continue.
”People have First Amendment rights, and we want to make sure those rights are observed ... but our position is that people have to observe the laws of the city and people have to be nonviolent,” Gray said. “To the extent that the folks who are involved in this observe those obvious requirements, we’re certainly willing to work with them. To the extent they don’t, we are going to make sure the laws of the District of Columbia are enforced.”
”They understand our concerns, and we understand what they are protesting,” Gray added.
Gray said that the Convention Center clash, between protesters, police, and attendees of a dinner held by the conservative Americans for Prosperity group, was “completely inappropriate” and “out of bounds.” Demonstrators said at least one driver struck several in their ranks; others raised concerns that protesters used children to block entrances to the Convention Center. A group of protesters from Freedom Plaza, he said, apologized after the incidents.
But Gray gave no indication any preparations are underway to clear the downtown encampments, which are on federal property controlled by the National Park Service. Gray said city police are “working very closely on a daily basis” with federal authorities.