Thousands of demonstrators streamed into the nation’s capital on Saturday, in the largest local protests so far over police brutality and racial oppression in the United States. On a hot and humid day, people carrying protest signs marched, many with their children, toward the area around the besieged White House, where authorities used tan military Humvees and dump trucks to cordon off large sections to vehicle traffic.

Here are some significant developments:

• Organizers with Black Lives Matter in the District painted “Defund the Police” on 16th Street NW near the section in front of the White House that D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) renamed “Black Lives Matter Plaza” a day earlier.

•The ninth day of massive protests in the District saw numerous demonstrations across the city — including along the U Street corridor, the Lincoln Memorial, Freedom Plaza and Capitol Hill — over the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, and the Trump administration’s militant approach to the unrest that has gripped cities across the country.

• Some demonstrators said they noticed a shift in the atmosphere at the protests as music played and people posed for selfies. “It’s not a carnival,” a Bowie State University student said to other protesters.

June 7, 2020 at 12:26 AM EDT

Crowd dwindles early Sunday on Black Lives Matter Plaza

As the clock struck midnight, a few hundred people were still standing around Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House, where the traffic lights endlessly blinked red.

The air was thick with cigarette and marijuana smoke. By this late hour, everything seemed a bit tired, a bit twisted, even the “Demand Police Accountability” projection on St. John’s Episcopal Church, which had slipped and was now hard to read.

A pair of young men playfully shadowboxed in the middle of the intersection as a man puffed on a joint nearby. Music still blared, but more quietly than earlier in the day, when a go-go band had thousands clapping and swaying.

On the south side of St. John’s, hip-hop thumped as a few dozen young people danced amid strobe lights. The music cut out so that a protester could praise those who had come out “every motherf---ing day.”

The crowd of about 50 cheered.

There was no sign of police, save a flicker of red and blue in the distance.

By Michael Miller
June 6, 2020 at 11:52 PM EDT

Black Lives Matter paints ‘Defund the police’ on 16th Street

About a dozen Black Lives Matter organizers are painting “Defund the Police” on 16th Street in Washington, a block from where Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) had “Black Lives Matter” painted in giant letters leading up to Lafayette Square.

“It’s Black Lives Matter D.C.,” said an organizer who declined to give her name. “That’s all. That’s it.”

The painters also painted over the stars in the D.C. logo which had been painted next to the “Black Lives Matter” slogan. The effect is that the D.C. symbol now looks like an equals sign, coopting the mayor’s message so it now reads “Black Lives Matter = Defund the Police.”

“Momma, momma, can’t you see. What police have done to me,” sang Makia Green, a core organizer for Black Lives Matter in D.C. “They locked us up and shoot us dead. Ain’t no justice in this town. Ain’t no justice in this town.”

She said the display was “a direct response” to Bowser’s mural.

“This is ours. This is all ours. This city is ours,” one organizer shouted. “These streets? Ours.”

Then a large group began chanting, “Black lives matter!”

Candace R., who wanted to be identified only by her first name, was standing just behind the yellow tape when the finishing touches were being put on the new painting.

“Defund … the … police,” she read out loud. “That’s good, that’s necessary.”

“People died, and the mayor and the president are arguing about how to police the city,” she added. “It’s missing the point.”

An African American female organizer strolled around in the middle of the circle, wielding a loudspeaker. “Earlier this week, they had tear gas, they had riot gear … and now,” she said as she looked up at the crowd smiling, “look, it’s just us, family.”

Candace nodded. “The police have been militarized over years,” she said, “that’s not an opinion, it’s a fact.”

This post has been updated.

By Rachel Chason, Samantha Schmidt and Rebecca Tan
June 6, 2020 at 11:29 PM EDT

Teenager’s 18th birthday wish was to attend D.C. protests

It was quite the 18th birthday for Jeremy Gray.

Standing on 16th Street NW on Saturday night, he watched with his brothers, 16 and 11, and his 55-year-old grandmother as Black Lives Matter members spray-painted three words in giant block letters: “DEFUND THE POLICE.”

Nicole Baker, Gray’s grandmother, said it was an important message. “Police don’t need to be paid to hurt people, to damage homes and lives,” she said.

Born and raised in D.C., Baker was just 4 years old when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. She remembers the riots and the protests, she said, and the anger.

“He wanted what we want today,” she said. “Freedom.”

At 10 p.m., when the crowd of black protesters raised their fists, so did Baker and Gray, who is biracial. It had been the teenager’s birthday wish to come to D.C. for the protests, Baker said, so the family of six piled into a car and drove down from Pennsylvania to Baker’s home city.

“It was a good birthday,” said Gray, nodding. One he’d have “embedded in his head,” he said.

By Rebecca Tan
June 6, 2020 at 10:54 PM EDT

Mom writes on 2-year-old’s hat: ‘Please don’t shoot me’

When Deja Akers dressed her 2-year-old son Tru to come to the protest at the White House, she picked out a neon green bucket hat, hoping that if he wiggled out of his stroller, she would be able to spot him quickly in the crowd.

But when she met a friend with a Sharpie, and saw all the signs and T-shirts the demonstrators had made, she saw a different purpose for the hat. She took it off Tru’s tight curls and wrote across the front: “Please don’t shoot me.”

Then she wrote on his shirt: “Does my life still matter?”

Her own mother didn’t want her to come down here, to bring the grandbaby to a place so crammed with people and surrounded by police.

“But before I had my son, I didn’t understand the magnitude of what was going on. To hear George Floyd call out for his mom … ” Akers said, her voice quavering.

Tru looked up at her from his stroller, a “My First Words” board book in his lap.

“I will be d----- if someone is going to video record my son dying,” Akers said.

Tru threw the book to the ground and pulled at the straps on his waist, wanting to get up.

“Okay, okay,” Akers said, reaching to unbuckle him. “Stay right here. Don’t move.”

By Jessica Contrera
June 6, 2020 at 10:16 PM EDT

Black Secret Service agent warns white protester to remember his privilege

The white man approached the tall metal fence outside the Treasury Department, shouting at the black Secret Service agent behind it and demanding to know why he didn’t quit his job. It was close to 9 p.m., and roughly two dozen protesters — deprived of police to shout at all day — had quickly massed outside the department after spotting a handful of officers stationed on its steps, apparently eager to engage.

The black agent — and two white colleagues, who were standing farther back on the steps — had remained silent and stony-faced as the crowd shouted “F--- 12!” and “Quit your jobs!”

But now, the black agent stepped forward and looked directly at the white man.

“Be sure to remember this,” he said in a level, low voice that carried, quieting the crowd. “Me putting on this uniform does nothing to take away from being black, and the consequences of being black.”

The white protester stared. The agent took another step toward the fence.

“So, before you ask me that again,” he said, “let me ask you this: What does your white privilege taste like?”

The protester gave an angry shrug. “I’m out here protesting for black people who are getting killed by cops!” he shouted.

“Did you find yourself at a voting booth last election?” the black agent asked in the same low voice. “Have you read Malcolm X?”

The white man took a step back. “I haven’t,” he admitted. “Have you? Have you read it?”

“Yes,” said the officer, “And you don’t get to tell me my expression. You don’t get to tell me — ”

But the rest of his response was cut off as more people arrived, and yelling rose to a crescendo.

“We don’t need this lecture from some pig,” fumed a demonstrator.

Torie Marshall, 38, of Southeast Washington, approached the fence. She wanted to hear what the officer had to say, how he justified protecting a man who spoke openly about arresting protesters and allowed demonstrators to be shot at and tear gassed a stone’s throw from the White House.

“I know he thinks he’s just doing his job, but if you have 100 dirty cops and 1,000 who stand around and let bad things happen, let them hurt people, let them get away with it — then you have 1,100 bad police officers,” she said. “It’s not enough to say, ‘but that isn’t me.’ ”

A few minutes later, with conversation impossible, the agent stepped away and looked at his white colleagues, who nodded. One by one, they filed into a door of the Treasury Department, the crowd cheering their departure.

One protester mouthed the words, “black lives matter.”

The black officer was the last to duck inside.

By Hannah Natanson and Marissa Lang
June 6, 2020 at 9:45 PM EDT

Trio drove six hours from North Carolina to ‘be part of history’

Protesters had flowed into D.C. from around the region Saturday, but few had traveled as far as sisters Amber and Amara Bird, and their friend Jackie Brown. The trio drove six hours from their home in Charlotte on Saturday morning to make it into the District.

None of them had told their parents.

“They probably think we’re in Charlotte,” said 26-year-old Amber Bird, giggling.

“We didn’t want to worry them,” added Brown. “When we’re home safe, we’ll tell them.”

The trip had been Brown’s idea. After watching a week of protests unfold in the nation’s capital, she wanted to join in and pitched the idea to her housemates after work Friday night. Amber Bird, who was blown away by the videos and images she saw of the giant Black Lives Matter mural on 16th Street in Washington, jumped at the opportunity.

“We wanted to be a part of history,” she said. “Like the March on Washington.”

What the trio saw Saturday was remarkably different from what they had seen in protests back home. The number of protesters in D.C. was hard to fathom, Amber Bird said, and it seemed like there were nearly no police.

In Charlotte, said Amara Bird, 19, there’s always a group of people giving protesters “the side-eye.”

“You can tell from the atmosphere that we have a voice here,” she added.

By Rebecca Tan
June 6, 2020 at 9:24 PM EDT

Not much concern for covid-19 among protesters

Imran Sherefa had few takers as he stood on the corner of 16th and K streets NW, offering a water bottle filled with clear alcohol.

“Hand sanitizer, guys?” he asked again and again. “Masks? Gloves?”

Sherefa had been dispensing for days at protests around the DMV. But as the protests had grown in size, fewer seemed worried about the pandemic. He didn’t blame them.

“I think people are deciding the fight for social justice is a bigger fight than their health,” said the 20-year-old, who was born in Ethiopia and now lives in Silver Spring.

“People are risking their lives for this,” he said.

Sherefa, a student at Montgomery College, said he was used to feeding the homeless. But when he posted about what he was doing on social media, he was surprised to receive at least five calls a day from people wanting to donate supplies.

Asked if he was worried about getting sick, he said that he and his friends had begun half joking that they probably already had covid-19.

“But we’re still using hand sanitizer,” he said.

By Michael Miller
June 6, 2020 at 9:15 PM EDT

‘We want change, not a mural’: Not everyone loves the ‘Black Lives Matter’ street painting

Spray painted in small purple writing on the gigantic Black Lives Matter street art display in front of the White House was another message: “This ‘mural’ ain’t doing s---.”

“We want change, not a ‘mural,’ ” read another.

Protesters who saw the messages nodded in agreement, laughed and took pictures of their own.

“What is painting a mural doing for black lives?” asked 20-year-old Sydni Lee, who is black. Lee, a college student studying psychology, said the message didn’t make a difference to President Trump.

“He doesn’t care anyway,” she said after snapping a picture of one of the new messages.

Rachel Ham and Ellie Moten laughed when they passed it. “Right?” Ham said to Moten.

“Come on, Bowser,” Moten, 22, replied. She said D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) had the mural done “in an attempt to shut us the f--- up.”

“But we are not leaving,” said Moten, who is black.

Sam Tanner, 49, from Arlington, also stopped to snap a picture. “I can see both sides,” said Tanner, who is white. “I thought it was a big middle finger to Trump . . . but we need more.”

Sway, 27, who did not want to give her last name, sat on I Street with a small but potent sign: “A Painted Street Doesn’t Make S--- Better.” She, too, thought Mayor Bowser was getting too much credit for a “gimmick,” an empty gesture that came as she increased the police budget by $19 million.

“If the mayor was serious,” she said, Bowser would put that money into schools or roads. “Soon there’s going to be black blood on that Black Lives Matter street,” said Sway, who is black.

“People are saying ‘Oh, this beautiful block lettering’ — that’s not change. Change is me walking down that street” and not feeling scared if a cop comes the other way, Sway said. Instead, she says, in Southeast Washington, police “harass you just to harass you. . . . You can’t just congregate as black people.” (She made an exception for black female cops, the only ones she said had consistently treated her well.)

Likewise, she said the go-go music blasting from down the street was a distraction: “This is a party,” she said, gesturing to the people dancing. Protesting, she said, “is not fun.” Not when “people still treat us like we’re animals.”

By Rachel Chason and Rachel Weiner
June 6, 2020 at 9:04 PM EDT

Documents detail Md. bicyclist’s alleged assault of three teens hanging protest fliers

By early afternoon, three friends had hung 50 fliers in and around the popular Capital Crescent bike trail that cuts through Bethesda.

“A man was lynched by the police. What are you doing about it?” one of the fliers read.

“Killer cops will not go free,” read another.

What happened next, according to a newly filed police affidavit, led to a harsh, video-recorded encounter that would be viewed on cellphones around the world. It sent local investigators looking for an enraged bicyclist last seen wearing an orange helmet and silver sunglasses — a search aided by tips from his neighbors and facial recognition software.

On Friday, investigators in Montgomery County arrested Anthony Bernard Brennan, 60, on three counts of second-degree, misdemeanor assault.

According the affidavit, filed in Montgomery District Court, Brennan attacked all three flier hangers he came across: a 19-year-old woman, with whom he is accused of getting into a tug-of-war over the fliers; another 19-year-old woman, whose right arm he reportedly bruised after yanking a roll of blue painter’s tape from it; and an 18-year-old whom investigators say Brennan shoved with his bike and tried to punch.

Read the full story here.

By Dan Morse
June 6, 2020 at 8:59 PM EDT

Powerful moment outside the White House as woman sings, ‘I love being black’

After 7 p.m., on the same street in front of the White House where days earlier protesters were forced out by police in riot gear, a woman stood up on a cooler, threw her head back and began to chant: “I love being black. I said I love being black. Don’t you love being black?”

A group of a few dozen black protesters gathered around her on H Street, in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church. They grew louder, clapping along and repeating her words, in an intimate moment of joy and solidarity.

“I love the color of my skin,” Jade Foster, 34, of Southeast Washington shouted as the crowd repeated. “Cuz it’s the skin that I’m in”

“I love the texture of my hair, and I rock it everywhere,” she sang.

Minutes later, she grew quieter as she finished the song: “I said I love being black.”

As she stepped off the cooler, dabbing her sweat with a scarf, Foster said in an interview that she had hoped to create a space of love and healing. But moments like these are also strategic, she said.

“We have to be within our community, strong and proud as a community, in order to enact change,” she said.

By Samantha Schmidt
June 6, 2020 at 8:51 PM EDT

Protesters line up for free massages

On the side of a wrought-iron fence on 16th Street NW, a handwritten sign promised free massages to protesters making their way back to the White House after climbing up to Meridian Hill Park and back down again.

“No way,” marveled one. “Free massages? Is that real?”

“Is that … safe?” asked another.

Alex Turcan thinks so. The massage therapist, who works at Wat Massage, had been giving out free back rubs for hours.

“People seem like they really need it today,” he said. “They’ve been way more popular than I expected.”

With a black face mask strapped around his nose and mouth, Turcan kneaded muscles and eased cramps. Antwan Ward, 31, of Northwest Washington said he felt ready to march, chant and stand for hours more after the break.

“I’ve never seen a massage chair at a protest before,” he said. “That’s why I had to stop.”

On a chair at the gate sat Lio Martinez, 9. His feet dangled and swung as he waited eagerly for his turn.

“I love massages,” he said. “Since they’re already free, I decided to leave them a sign.”

On a chair nearby, sat a sign Lio had drawn. It said, “Help Black people, don’t kill them.”

His mother, Anai Martinez, said she and her son have been protesting for days.

“We didn’t come here for the massage,” she said. “Why are we here, Lio?”

“For Breonna Taylor and George Floyd!” he said, pumping his fist skyward.

“Just them?” his mother pushed. “Or because there has been 400 years of oppression?”

Lio nodded, but it was his turn. He darted to the massage chair and strained to reach his face to the cushion.

“I knew I couldn’t let this opportunity slide,” Lio said as Turcan got to work.

By Marissa Lang
June 6, 2020 at 8:05 PM EDT

Metro ridership surges with Saturday’s protests

Metro was filled with protesters Saturday, the first time Metrorail’s ridership numbers have climbed above historic lows since the coronavirus pandemic impacted the region.

Metro reported 42,000 passenger trips by late Saturday afternoon, more than doubling the number of trips recorded by the same time one week prior, Metro spokesman Ian Jannetta said.

The one-day passenger surge was the first time Metrorail’s ridership had spiked significantly since mid-March, when the transit agency began drastically cutting back on service to limit the risk to passengers and operators of spreading the novel coronavirus due to the limited ability to maintain social distancing on rail cars and buses.

Since then, rail ridership has consistently been down 90 percent or more when compared with pre-pandemic periods. Metrobus, which also saw severe route cuts, has rarely rose above 30 percent of its usual ridership levels.

Despite Metro having nearly 30 stations closed because of the pandemic or construction, riders still flocked to the rail system Saturday. Metro had anticipated the surge, opening up the first and last cars of trains that had been left vacant to protect operators from passengers. It also doubled the usual number of available trains.

It’s still a far cry from a typical Saturday before the pandemic. On March 7, Metrorail recorded 225,000 passenger trips, Metro records show. By comparison on May 23, also a Saturday, Metrorail recorded 20,000 passenger trips or 92 percent less than a similar pre-pandemic day.

Saturday ridership numbers for Metrobus were not immediately available.

By Justin George
June 6, 2020 at 7:50 PM EDT

Raw anger from mother of man killed by DC police

Hundreds of protesters who, minutes earlier, has been dancing on 16th Street to “Wobble” and “Cupid Shuffle” fell silent as Kenithia Alston spoke about the killing of her 22-year-old son, Marqueese Alston, by D.C. police in 2018.

Alston described shifting police accounts of what happened and a year-long struggle to get police to release body camera footage of the fatal encounter, despite repeated pleas to Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D). She said when police allowed her to see the footage of her son’s death, she was only allowed to bring three other people. The video has not been publicly released.

In the crowd, protesters shook their heads and frowned. “Seriously?” a young white man said to his friend when Alston said police at one point told her they could not publicly release the footage because her deceased son had not requested it.

“Tell this mayor to release the body cam,” she said, her voice breaking as she noted that Bowser had Black Lives Matter spray-painted on 16th Street in front of the White House. “Do black lives really matter?”

Alston said in an interview that Bowser’s gesture was the result of a feud with President Trump — not a genuine commitment to the movement.

“If it were genuine, she would have at least responded to my numerous attempts to reason with her,” she said.

Bowser did not directly address a question about Alston when asked about his death at a news conference Friday.

Speaking about her son’s death in public, Alston said, is stressful, and each time “brings forward so much new pain and anxiety.”

By Rachel Chason
June 6, 2020 at 7:42 PM EDT

‘It’s not a carnival’: Activists ask the crowd to stay focused

Jade Ashford had spent all day watching the snacking, the dancing and the selfie-taking happening on the crowded streets in front of the White House. So when someone passed her the megaphone, the 24-year-old Bowie State student knew exactly what she wanted to say.

“It looks like a fun time over there, well it’s not fun. My people are dying,” she cried. “Do y’all hear me?”

“Yes!” the protesters around her called back.

“No I don’t think y’all hear me because it’s mad quiet,” she said.

She asked them three more times then, frustrated, handed off the megaphone to the man beside her.

“I want them to hear me over there where they’re shaking and jiving!” he called.

Ashford shook her head, her long braids sweeping back and forth over her sweating back. She’d come here because she was studying criminal justice, because she planned to become a criminal defense lawyer, someone who could change the system from within.

Until then, she was always thinking about all the things she could do that her ancestors couldn’t, including taking to the streets to scream, to holler, to make demands.

“It’s starting to lose its purpose and message,” she said. “It’s just throwing me off because it needs to be serious right now. It’s not a joke. It’s not a carnival. My people are tired.”

She said she could feel the atmosphere shift after Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) ordered the painting of Black Lives Matter on 16th Street near the White House, a move that thrilled many but annoyed activists who feel Bowser isn’t doing enough to support the ideals behind the slogan.

“That’s cool and all but let’s not forget how much money the mayor puts into the police, and how she hasn’t done enough to stop gentrification,” Ashford said.

Her frustrations wouldn’t keep her from coming back Sunday, or from taking the megaphone again to remind the crowds — especially the masses of white people — what this moment is supposed to be about.

“If I don’t say anything,” she said, “then who will?”

By Jessica Contrera
June 6, 2020 at 7:37 PM EDT

Outside the Supreme Court, a call for white accountability

As the sun lowered near the Supreme Court and an intense citywide protest day faded into a sleepy quarantine dusk on Capitol Hill, one woman was more than five hours into her own protest.

Sitting on the ground in front of the court, whose white plaza and steps were closed off by metal fencing, she had for hours been yelling a single thing repeatedly at the top of her lungs, through protests, two rain storms and a man with a Trump sign.

“HOLD! OTHER! WHITE! PEOPLE! ACCOUNTABLE!,” she chanted again and again. “My life depends on it!”

The sign she held read, in part, “Dear white people, this protest is cute … but 50% of white women voted 4 Trump. … You started/benefit from oppression — you must end it!”

The woman, who didn’t want to give her name, said she did this on a day of huge protests because she wanted to stand out.

“In the fight for black people to be recognized, I want white people to hold one another accountable,” she said, her voice a bit hoarse. Seeing hundreds of white people earlier in the day holding Black Lives Matter signs and chanting near her, she was shocked.

“Don’t think it’s nice to post pictures to Instagram — that’s not enough,” she said. “We wouldn’t be in this situation if 50 percent of white women didn’t vote for Trump to further capitalism.”

About 30 minutes earlier, a second African American woman — a stranger — joined her on the ground, also shouting into the breezy, empty canyon of First Street. The end of the chant became ”Our lives depend on it!”

“She was here, and I thought: When we see someone do the right thing, we need to join them, even if it’s uncomfortable,” the second woman said. “I want black people to support each other.”

Occasionally, a white person walking along would yell from a distance as they passed: “I will!”

Earlier, the first woman said, a couple got engaged a few feet away, in front of the court. They gave her their pink roses and white daisies and vowed to heed her call.

She said she saw video earlier in the week of some white people at the protests throwing their bodies in front of black protesters during conflicts with police.

“They can create a safer world for black people to protest,” she said.

Just before 7 p.m., two young white people stopped to watch. Then they joined, and the chant got louder.

By Michelle Boorstein
June 6, 2020 at 7:04 PM EDT

‘It’s time to break out’: At Meridian Hill Park, calls for change

At the feet of Joan of Arc in the center of Meridian Hill Park, another young woman stood, calling for a revolution.

“When we say no justice,” she said.

On cue, the crowd bellowed: “No peace!”

“What we mean is defund the police,” said Hilda Jordan, 22. “I know that sounds scary, but please understand, we spend more of our dollars on law enforcement than schools, than health care, than infrastructure. What are we doing?”

Jordan had not come to the rally intending to speak, but took hold of the megaphone when community leaders turned a rally for peace into an open mic.

“We want to hear from you,” said Dana Nearing, the registrar at Duke Ellington School of the Arts. “Please come up if you have something to say.”

Hundreds gathered in the park, holding signs scrawled on cardboard and poster board.

Children ran and played in the grass.

Rainbow flags dotted the crowd. Several wore shirts in honor of Pride month.

“I want to encourage my community, the LGBTQ community, in what is our Pride month, to raise your voices in support of my other community, the black community,” Nearing said. “Let’s show everyone what we mean when we say love is love is love.”

Like the gathering by the White House, this rally began with music.

Jasmine Graham, 24, led the crowd in Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,” as onlookers danced and clapped. When the chorus came, they joined in.

“I’m talking to the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways,” they sang. “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.”

“White people you have work to do,” Jackeline Stewart, 35, of Takoma Park, said into a megaphone. “This is about defunding the police. … But this is also about your boardrooms. If you go into your meetings and you don’t have a black person in the room, you have work to do.”

“It’s not just showing up at protests. It is not just calling your Congress members, it is every single day,” she said. “You have got to put in the work.”

“It is your voice that is going to make it happen, because people listen to people who look like you,” Stewart said.

The final speaker at the rally, Stephawn Lindsay, a 29-year-old go-go pioneer and a pastor, told a story of how baby elephants have their legs tied to restrain them.

“Like me, for a while you were like the elephant walking in circles,” he said. “It’s time to break out.”

“Break out!” the crowd shouted.

“Can you imagine if the elephant knew how powerful he was?” Lindsey asked.

By Marissa Lang and Samantha Schmidt
June 6, 2020 at 7:01 PM EDT

Where tear gas and rubber bullets once flew, a carnival stands

Just six days earlier, the streets surrounding the White House felt like as Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper described it: a “battlespace,” with armored Humvees and tear gas.

But if the massive show of force against these protesters was meant to deter them from coming back, it appeared to do the opposite. The next day, even more demonstrators appeared. By Saturday, the “battlespace” had the atmosphere of a well-organized carnival.

Children followed their parents to ice cream trucks. A teenager blew bubbles into the crowd. The music was thumping all day, from speakers hauled in and running on generators.

Instead of marching around the city in one unified mass, thousands moved around downtown in clumps, making stops as at activity stations: do the wobble in the streets, stop for a free hot dog or Gatorade, stand where Trump stood outside St. John’s Episcopal Church moments after police forcibly drove peaceful protesters from the block.

“I want to see the Black Lives Matter Way,” Jasmine Davis told her friend. It was her first day at the protest.

“We are on it,” Whitney Edney showed her, pointing to the yellow paint barely visible beneath all the sneakers and sandals. “That’s where all the people are standing.”

Edney brought her father to the demonstrations Friday night, and now she was back for more.

“You can feel the energy as you’re walking up, all the way over on 14th Street,” she said.

Protesters visited a makeshift art studio in McPherson Square, where stacks of blank neon posters were available for people to craft their messages. “And we have thick markers!” shouted a man welcoming in the crowds. “Like double c — thicc!” his friend said.

They stopped to see the professional art: Plywood sheets protecting some businesses had been transformed into colorful murals, made for Instagram moments. At the nightclub the Park, people took turns posing in front of paintings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

As 6:30 p.m. neared — the time projectiles started flying Monday — the front line of the protest was still the newly erected fence encircling the White House. No one was wearing eye protection or tugging helmets over their masks. They were chanting the same chants they’d been hollering for a week. They were still trying to be heard.

But on the other side of the fence, the lines of military police were gone. A few law enforcement officers paced in the distance, closer to where the protesters hoped their voices were reaching: the Oval Office.

By Jessica Contrera
June 6, 2020 at 6:51 PM EDT

‘Street medics’ organize, help protesters through heat and tear gas

When a woman collapsed on H Street just outside the White House on Saturday afternoon, the people around her didn’t call 911; they called for a medic. Instead of being loaded onto an ambulance on a stretcher, she was lifted by folding table onto the back of a white pickup truck. Only at the edge of the sprawling protest, on Vermont Avenue, was she met by official D.C. emergency responders.

“DC Fire and EMS will not come down these streets,” Nassim Touil, a 21-year-old EMT Basic, said from the medical compound at 16th and I streets NW that he helped create.

He said that after helping people hit with tear gas Monday, he decided to try to organize the various ad hoc teams of street medics. They have 150 volunteers with rough rotations and cheap walkie-talkies.

Heather Honstein, a 29-year-old nurse, said she’d spoken to firefighters and was told they would come in if they had to but preferred if protesters could get the wounded to the edge of the giant crowd. When the street medics arrive, they call 911 if necessary. There is no ambulance posted permanently on site, the protesters said.

The unconscious woman needed an ambulance, but the street medics can treat many other people in a rented compound that a week ago was an outdoor patio for the restaurant Mirabelle. They have ice packs and electrolytes in their day bags for heat stroke, and milk of magnesia and gauze at night for tear gas and rubber bullets.

When Honstein is not at the protests, she’s working with long-term covid-19 patients in the ICU at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

“Fighting covid by day, fighting racism by night,” she said. “For health-care professionals, this is our activism.”

District emergency workers had taken three people to hospitals as of Saturday evening, including one person with a heat-related illness, another to treat injuries from a fall, and a third with an undisclosed medical condition, according to Vito Maggiolo, spokesman for the D.C. Fire and EMS Department.

None of the cases were life-threatening, Maggiolo said, and another nine people were evaluated but didn’t seek further care.

By Rachel Weiner and Michael Laris
June 6, 2020 at 6:39 PM EDT

Parents bring biracial son to D.C. to confront his future head-on

The sun was beginning its slow drop behind the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday evening, and the scene could have been lifted from any weekend in the park. Shirtless men competed to see who could hold a headstand the longest. Families huddled in the monument’s shade.

Only the dozen military personnel on the marble steps and the constant buzz-saw drone of helicopters overhead were reminders that the city was the scene of massive protests.

Near the monument’s bottom steps, King Dey, 8, rested with his parents, Shannon and Wayne Swift. The family had driven six hours from Worcester, Mass., to participate in Saturday’s demonstrations.

“We saw it on social media and decided it was something we needed to be a part of,” Shannon Swift said. “My son is half black.”

“We know this is something he’s going to have to deal with someday,” Wayne Swift said. “And there was also the feeling that this was history.”

King was shy when they began marching, his mother said. But soon after people began asking for his picture, he loosened up. All day, he clutched a double-sided sign, each side posing a question that hits at what his generation faces.

“My mommy is white. My daddy is black. I’m just wondering would you still have my back?” one side read.

The other: “At what point in my life do I go from handsome to hands up?”

By Kyle Swenson
June 6, 2020 at 5:48 PM EDT

‘Wind us up, D.C.!’: Go-go march launches on U Street

Hundreds gathered Saturday afternoon on the corner of 14th and U streets NW to protest in the name of the District’s native go-go music, swaying and bopping as they listened to a band playing from the bed of a truck parked in the middle of the intersection.

Chants of “Long live go-go!” gave way to shouts of “No justice, no peace!” and pumps of fists in the air. Young men climbed on top of a bus stop to catch a better glimpse of the band, as women scooped brightly colored shaved ice out of a cooler on the back of a pickup truck and activists handed out water and snacks. The water and snacks were free; the shaved ice was not.

“This will make everyone peaceful,” said Poopoo Earls, 64, who said she used to dance with Chuck Brown, the late-godfather of go-go. “What better way to get anger and frustration out than music?”

Before the band started playing, Earls, a native of Washington who describes herself as the “queen of go-go,” sat on a speaker under a tree, swaying as she blasted music from Suttle Thoughts, the band that would be performing.

She said she was in junior high during the riots of 1968 and participated then, running through the streets. But scared of covid-19, she sat out the protests this week — until she heard there would be go-go.

“When they said go-go, I relate to that,” said Earls, who has a tattoo on her arm commemorating her title “Queen.”

“Music calms the savage beast. And go-go is D.C.”

The crowd marched toward the White House, and many were eager to see the huge yellow letters spelling out “Black Lives Matter” that were painted on 16th Street a day earlier.

“When Mayor Bowser did that, that really touched me,” said Rayshawn Jacobs, 34, from a few blocks away in Northwest. “Before that, I wasn’t sure if she was aligned with the protesters or if she was just playing politics.”

Jacobs — who sat on his bike with an American flag on his back, complete with an eagle on the end of the pole — said that sporadic looting last week had only made more people come out in recent days. “It put a larger focus on the nonviolence,” he said.

“This is our country,” he said as he looked at the crowd around him. “If we’re not allowed to do this, then we’re just another Third World country.“

The atmosphere Saturday felt more like a typical pre-pandemic weekend on the bustling strip than the quiet months that have followed social distancing measures.

“You better shake that booty, shake what you got,” the singer implored, and the diverse crowd danced.

By Rachel Chason and Michael Miller
June 6, 2020 at 5:45 PM EDT

Fence at Lafayette Square, once a symbol of division, becomes a mini-exhibition

Without the line of armed officers to face off against, protesters Saturday drifted away from the chain-link fence along Lafayette Square. The metal structure, which for many days had been shaken and hit, now stood relatively still.

Posters, ribbons, flags and origami hung from its black holes, forming a makeshift exhibition or archive that seemed to encapsulate both the anger and grief that had been expressed on the streets nearby. People strolled along the fence, stopping every few feet to snap pictures or read posters.

On the east end, people had used bright, colored ribbons to spell out in capital letters: “POLICE-FREE SCHOOLS.” Next to it, a white shirt was pinned to the fence with the slogan: “My body is not a target.”

In the center, there was a cardboard tribute with the names and photos of victims of police violence: Breonna Taylor and George Floyd; Philando Castile and Tamir Rice.

On the west end were balloons to mark Taylor’s 27th birthday Friday, along with more signs and a string of origami cranes. The paper birds mean hope, a mother told her young daughter.

By Rebecca Tan
June 6, 2020 at 5:38 PM EDT

Many Asian Americans say they feel a need to show solidarity with black protesters

Among groups that might not have been as prominent in previous civil rights movements are Asian Americans. But on Saturday, many felt the need to show their solidarity with those protesting George Floyd’s death.

Viet Tran, 27, who lives in the District, carried a sign that read “Asians for Black Lives Matter” on one side and “Yellow Peril supports Black Power.”

“I think this movement has to include all of us,” Tran said.

Asians have their own history of American discrimination from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II to the slurs and boycotts Asian American restaurant and business owners have faced during the coronavirus pandemic.

Tran said Asians are a natural ally to the Black Lives Matter movement, and one that is growing more visible decades after tensions between Korean Americans and the black community during the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

“In the past few years, you’re seeing more visibility [from Asians],” he said.

Just a few feet away from Tran sat a group of Sikh protesters carrying cardboard “Black Lives Matter” signs. The group was associated with the Sikh International Council, which had handed out water to protesters earlier in the day.

“As a Sikh and as a community that has gone through their own struggle whether in India [as a discriminated minority group],” said Gurvir Singh, 28, “or in the form of hate crimes post 9/11, the Sikh community out of all Indian communities stand with the oppressed.”

Rupinder Mudahar, 36, of Rockville, said his generation is well aware that the success Asians have achieved in the United States is owed directly to black protesters in the 1950s and 1960s and is built “on the backs of those black leaders of the civil rights movement.”

“We understand that what we have achieved in the United States is a direct result of the civil rights movement,” he said. “We want to say thank you, and a way to say thank you is to stand next to them in this fight.”

Bakhshish Singh, director of the Sikh International Council, said their religion pushes them toward activism. Singh said he is also motivated by a memory. In 1971, the turban-wearing man recalled going to a restaurant with a white friend and being barred from entering. It was one of the most overt forms of discrimination he has faced.

But he said that when he saw what happened to George Floyd, he realized just how long the black community has struggled with discrimination and how they have often times ended up dead because of it.

“This is a long time this minority community has been suffering,” he said. “I watched that video. Actually I couldn’t watch all that video. It sickened me.”

By Justin George
June 6, 2020 at 5:18 PM EDT

Protest takes group from White House to Chinatown to I-395

Thousands of protesters marched east from the White House on Saturday on what would prove to be an epic journey around much of the District between downtown and the Anacostia River.

The group marched to Chinatown, where they took a knee and observed three minutes of silence for George Floyd. They marched to Ninth Street NW and Constitution Avenue, where they took a knee again. They marched through the Ninth Street tunnel, where they shouted “Black Lives Matter,” the sound of their voices echoing off concrete in tunnels usually reserved for cars. They sprawled on to Interstate 395, where some drivers honked in solidarity. Traffic was immobilized where, decades ago, tarmac was laid over mostly poor, black neighborhoods in Southwest Washington, isolating those that remained from the rest of the city.

“I think it’s great,” one man in a minivan with Virginia plates said of the protest. He pointed to the back of the car, which was filled with what appeared to be teenagers in protest gear. “I just picked them up.”

From the highway, the large group moved down Independence Avenue to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. There, 26-year-old Aaron Covington who, maskless and shirtless, had led the protesters on their great trek, offered a sermon of sorts through a megaphone at the foot of the “Stone of Hope,” the granite state of the civil rights leader.

Covington thanked God the protests had been peaceful, that police officers along the route had been friendly and said he hoped their eyes had been opened. He thanked God for the helicopter hovering above, hoping the video footage its occupants were capturing would spread word of the protests far and wide.

“You said we will have our freedom, and we will have our freedom,” he prayed. Then, he dismissed the protesters, who dispersed. The day was far from over, and there were many marches to come elsewhere.

By Justin Wm. Moyer
June 6, 2020 at 4:55 PM EDT

Jordanian student marvels at freedom of speech here

Protests aren’t like this in Omar Al-Za’atreh’s home country of Jordan. The 20-year-old George Washington University student had attended multiple protests in the nation’s capital during the week. The endless crowds. The speeches. The media swarming the crowds. It all felt so American to the international student.

Even Monday, when officers moved in and gassed protesters to clear them, he said it was far less violent than in the Middle East.

“People can say what they want here,” he said. “It’s not like this in the Middle East.”

He had attended a protest back home, but he said people were so afraid of the government that not many showed up. There were few members of the news media to document what unfolded, he said.

“The circumstances here apply to America, but racism and police brutality are everywhere,” he said. “I am supporting people here so if something happens at home, they will support us.”

By Perry Stein
June 6, 2020 at 4:52 PM EDT

The White House — and Black Lives Matter Plaza — become the epicenter of activity

As afternoon melted to evening, the scene outside the White House remained exuberant.

Sixteenth Street — or the newly minted Black Lives Matter Way — was the epicenter, where people stood or walked shoulder to shoulder. The packed crowds stretched to K Street before starting to thin out.

There was a general current of people moving down H and 16th streets, chanting “black lives matter.” Along the way, tight circles of people stopped to play music, eat or rest. Outside the AFL-CIO building, which had been set ablaze a week ago, dozens of protest-goers beat and shook percussion instruments; a block away, an African American woman sang soul music to an older, quieter audience.

Many first-time protest-goers stopped to take pictures with sights that had now become folkloric: outside St. John’s Episcopal Church, where President Trump had wielded a Bible days ago; with the concrete statue at the east end of Lafayette Square, which protesters had defaced before the 8-foot chain link fence; or along 15th Street, where vandals had spray-painted expletives aimed at Trump.

“It’s history,” said Francesca McKenzie, 36, who had brought her three children from Norfolk, to attend the protests. “One day, when she gets older,” McKenzie said, stroking the curls of her 4-year-old daughter, “she’ll have this, and she’ll remember what happened when people rose up.”

By Rebecca Tan
June 6, 2020 at 4:48 PM EDT

Armored Humvees, soldiers and ice cream trucks

As the runoff of melted ice cream dripped down his arm, a small boy raised his hand and thrust it in the direction of an armored Humvee blocking the road in downtown Washington.

“Look,” he shouted. “It’s a tank!”

As demonstrators paused to buy ice cream and cool off in the shade near 16th and L streets NW, about a dozen National Guard troops from Missouri directed traffic. The lilting jingle of the ice cream trucks lining the perimeter of the protest drifted over armored vehicles and troops in fatigues. As families waited to pay, many snapped photos of the military presence that had moved to the edges of Saturday’s demonstration zone.

“As long as they’re just sitting there, I’m okay,” a woman, who said she was from a military family and who declined to give her name, said. “They want to keep the peace, that’s fine. But then don’t start something.”

Kent Beduhan, a psychotherapist from Silver Spring, Md., approached one of the men in fatigues and asked where the group had come from.

“Missouri National Guard,” the man replied.

“That’s a long way from here,” Beduhan observed.

Though the exchange was pleasant — the Guardsman told Beduhan to stay hydrated and take care in the summer heat — Beduhan said the scene was surreal.

“I’m honestly kind of freaked out that they’re here at all,” he said. “It’s disgusting and painful to see the military here, like an occupation. I know people say the National Guard is different, but I don’t perceive it that way as a civilian.”

Just a few feet away, one Guardsman waved at a little girl staring wide-eyed at him over the brim of her small surgical mask.

She didn’t wave back.

By Marissa Lang
June 6, 2020 at 4:38 PM EDT

A mother weighs giving ‘the talk’ to her young boys

DeShawn Rasberry, 6, and his brother, Davian, 4, were pooped by 4 p.m. They had been at the intersection of Pennsylvania and 13th Street NW since noon with their mother, Janessa Smith, 28, handing out water, Gatorade and granola bars to the thousands of protesters passing by.

The brothers had never seen so many people, and frankly neither had Smith. It was the family’s first protest.

“Do you know why all these people are here?” Smith asked her younger son. He stared blankly at the crowd, munching on the granola bar that had crumbled to pieces in his small hands.

“They’re out here for you,” Smith said.

Davian, dressed in a superman cap and matching T-shirt, smiled and nodded. “Mmhmm,” he said.

Smith had explained to her two sons that they were here to “protest” — which means standing up for something, she told them — and to help others. She hadn’t told them the protest was against police brutality, spurred by the killing of a Minneapolis man, George Floyd, in police custody.

“They’re so young now, still so young,” Smith said. “And right now, they’re in love with law enforcement. … I don’t want to spoil that. Not yet.”

The brothers both have small police uniforms at their home in Prince George’s County and wear them when they get the chance. DeShawn, squatting in some gravel, said he thinks he might want to be an officer when he grows up.

“They helps peoples,” he said plainly.

And was he afraid of them?

“Nope. Nope, nope.”

Smith looked at her sons, both just barely coming up to her waist, their hands gripping cold water bottles. One day, she’d have to give them “the talk” about police officers, she thought to herself.

But not today.

By Rebecca Tan
June 6, 2020 at 4:31 PM EDT

After a tense week, nation’s capital explodes in sunny relief, overrun by families and young children

After a tense week that saw peaceful protesters gassed outside the White House and people buzzed by a helicopter in the streets of downtown Washington, Saturday brought warm sun and what felt like a collective sigh of relief.

Thousands of protesters strolled the streets around the executive mansion or wandered along the sides of the reflecting pool, some stopping to eat lunch and catch their breath by the World War II Memorial or the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Some took off their shoes — revealing feet red and swollen from the previous days’ marching — and young children played in the water, splashing their parents. A father helped his daughter clamber onto an electric scooter, hopped on beside her and took her for a slow ride around the rim of the reflecting pool, explaining why President Abraham Lincoln was famous as he did so.

“Are you having fun?” called Tyler Eichens, 16, to the daughter of a family friend, busy twirling in circles in the World War II Memorial pool. “Yeah!” cried Bella Sanders, 5, who had donned a pink T-shirt reading “DREAMER” for her first protest.

It felt almost like a mass picnic, except for the “Black Lives Matter” signs clutched in hands or laid momentarily to rest beside snacking, seated demonstrators.

In a sharp contrast to previous days, almost no officers were visible anywhere. And when protesters did see law enforcement — men in camo, grouped in twos and threes in unobtrusive corners — they did not yell abuse, as they might have done before.

“Hey, guys,” a fair-haired, freckled teenager called to three officers lurking behind a turret of the World War II Memorial, “Why aren’t you wearing masks? You need to protect yourselves, there’s still a pandemic on!”

On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the Attman family posed for a selfie with the reflecting pool in the background. Scott Attman, 42, struggled to hold the iPhone and get everyone — his three children and wife, who’d driven from their Potomac, Md., home to join the protests for the first time Saturday — in the picture.

A passing African American protester noticed his difficulties and offered to take the picture. Scott Attman broke into a wide grin.

“Wow, that means so much, thanks man,” Attman said. “In a normal world I’d say yes in a heartbeat. But — ” He gestured to the cloth masks his entire family had donned for the day. There was indeed still a pandemic on, although it didn’t feel like that to Ryan Attman, 12. And it didn’t feel like a city on edge anymore, either — not like the burned-out, angry city he’d seen images of on TV.

It was Ryan’s first time outside the house in a long while. He’d worried the nation’s capital might feel scary or dangerous. “But it feels,” Ryan said, “like we’re getting back to normal.”

By Hannah Natanson
June 6, 2020 at 4:22 PM EDT

Free signs, and partying for a purpose

“Free signs, free signs,” screamed Victoria Paris.

The 22-year old dance instructor sat in the middle of Black Lives Matter Plaza with her sister and a friend painting signs to give away. She wanted to ensure people were coming to protest, even if they couldn’t procure the materials to make signs on their own.

Around her, music blared, protesters danced and people posed in front of boarded-up windows with the words Black Lives Matter written large on them.

Paris took requests of what to write on the signs — “Black Lives Matter” and “racism is a pandemic,” for example — and said she gave out hundreds today. The dance teacher paid for the materials herself.

“I want people to be able to express themselves,” she said.

While people danced around her, a protest leader yelled in a megaphone to remind the crowd why they were here.

“We’re out here for a reason,” the organizer said. “We’re partying for a purpose.”

As he spoke, Paris continued to hand out Black Lives Matter signs to whoever wanted them.

By Perry Stein
June 6, 2020 at 4:22 PM EDT

He knows he’s ‘an endangered species.’ He came anyway.

An 82-year-old man in a surgical mask and button-up shirt sat in a folding chair and tapped his foot to the beat of Beyoncé’s rendition of “Before I Let Go.”

He watched the blonde women grilling hot dogs for the marchers, the bicyclists who taped “black lives matter” signs to their bikes, the white toddlers on the shoulders of their parents.

Thomas Page said he was thinking of the day the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and the city erupted in protests and rioting that left 13 people dead and dozens of businesses destroyed. Now, Page was looking at the boarded-up windows downtown, where he’d come to bring generators to his grandson, who was one of the protest’s organizers.

On his way in, he passed members of the National Guard. He had watched the clearing of protesters on Monday on CNN.

“We didn’t have the military here in ’68,” Page said. “The way that occurred, it should have never occurred. But nothing is normal anymore.”

For the past few months, he has been sheltering in his home in Southeast Washington, only going out for grocery runs or walks around the block with his wife of 60 years. But on Saturday, he wanted to be here for his grandson.

“I’m an endangered species,” Page said. “My wife called me twice already and told me to be careful. She is a scaredy-cat.”

He planned to stay until they didn’t need his generator anymore.

He said he didn’t know if this moment was the one that would bring the change people had been demanding since the day of King’s death.

“But let’s hope,” he said.

By Jessica Contrera
June 6, 2020 at 4:04 PM EDT

‘You need to speak up any way you can’

At the White House on Saturday afternoon, Bob Williams, who uses a computer to speak, joined the protest in a wheelchair. He tried to respond to questions but could not — the machine that lets him communicate was not working — so he had to remain silent at a demonstration meant to amplify marginalized voices.

Hours after the protest moved on, he said in an email that he was a white man in his 60s with “a duty to do all I can to strip racists of their supposed legitimacy and power to wantonly kill.”

“I learned early that if you want to be heard, you need to speak up any way you can,” he wrote. “You cannot allow yourself to be silenced by anyone, especially yourself.”

By Justin Wm. Moyer
June 6, 2020 at 4:03 PM EDT

White coats for black lives

The crowd erupted into whoops and cheers as white-coat-wearing physicians and medical students streamed into the newly minted Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington.

They carried signs that read “Racism is a public health crisis” and “Racism is a socially transmitted disease.”

Nurses in turquoise scrubs marched with their fists raised as onlookers called out, “Thank you!”

“These are the real heroes right here,” a man called out.

The health-care workers, many of whom have for weeks been treating and testing patients for the coronavirus at D.C.-area hospitals and clinics, said they thought it was important to acknowledge what several called “the pandemic within the pandemic.”

“It’s tricky being out here in the middle of a pandemic,” said a medical student named Alexis who would not give his last name. “But racism affects people’s health, too. I didn’t want to stay quiet about that.”

Free cloth and surgical masks have been plentiful at these protests, but a group of student nurses from Johns Hopkins University posted up on H Street near the White House with a much rarer commodity — N95s.

“Free masks!” they called out, encouraging protesters to trade up for superior protection. “Make sure you seal the nose!”

Angelica Marrero, 27, said the school had gathered 100,000 masks from donors over the past week for free distribution. “We took action and grabbed a bunch,” she said. “We’re trying to do our part to protect black and brown bodies.”

Stressing that her views don’t represent the institution, she said, “People aren’t out here because they want to be, they’re out here because they have to be. … To be an ally is not a noun, it’s a verb. As student nurses, we’re obligated to do our part.”

By Marissa Lang
June 6, 2020 at 3:47 PM EDT

‘It’s not enough to not be racist. You have to be anti-racist.’

In the crowd that took 15 minutes to stream past the Dirksen Senate Office Building toward downtown, two masked faces in the overwhelmingly young crowd stood out: Frank Guzzetta and Paul Manville, married and in their 70s.

“It’s an amazing day. We’ve lived through so many of these — " Guzzetta started before his voice caught on a choked cry and his eyes began to water.

“It’s just so heartening, so many young people out, and it’s so positive, so hopeful,” he said as the crowd around him chanted in call-and-response: “Say his name! George Floyd!”

Pausing on what was driving his emotion, he looked around and gestured with a sweep of his arm to the crowds, the Capitol they were passing, the city.

“The world. This is our country,” he said through tears that mixed with sweat around his mask. “We knew it was inside, we just didn’t see it.”

The pair have been at protests through the years, Guzzetta said — gay rights, civil rights and antiwar, said the retiree, who lives on Capitol Hill but was president of Hecht’s, Macy’s and Ralph Lauren Home.

“This is just so much more positive, so much more hopeful. I’ve been saying to young people — we’re leaving you a world with a lot of problems,” he said. “We have nary a decade left. And now to have young people out here … we’ve always been not racists but it’s not enough to not be racist. You have to be anti-racist. You need to speak up.”

By Michelle Boorstein
June 6, 2020 at 3:42 PM EDT

A 4-year-old girl on her father’s shoulders joins the protest

Four-year-old Nile, wearing a rainbow tutu, sat on her father’s shoulders at the center of the newly minted Black Lives Matter Plaza on Saturday afternoon. She held a sign that read “black lives matter” as her father, John Wiley, 37, of D.C., gently bopped her up and down.

“Why are so many people taking my picture?” she asked her mother, Krystle Joyner, 34.

“Because you give people hope,” Joyner said. “We’re doing this for you.”

Saturday was the first day the family has attended the protests. It was also the first day the parents have talked to their daughter about racism, following a “Sesame Street” town hall in the morning, said Joyner, a counselor with D.C. Public Schools.

“She’s like, ‘why are so many people out there?’ ” Joyner said. “She sees it on the news, and we’re trying to get her to understand.”

By Samantha Schmidt
June 6, 2020 at 3:35 PM EDT

Demonstrators stop traffic in 9th Street Tunnel, on Interstate 395

After gathering at 9th Street and Constitution Avenue in Northwest Washington, thousands of protesters turned south into the 9th Street Tunnel.

The lanes were closed to traffic as marchers shouted “black lives matter."

Once through the tunnel, they took the ramp to Interstate 395, where hundreds of seemingly supportive honks could be heard from one of the city’s major traffic arteries.

After a pause, protesters moved on to the highway as police tried to control traffic.

By Justin Wm. Moyer
June 6, 2020 at 3:25 PM EDT

No police in sight at Lafayette Square, and few anywhere else

After more than a week of shouting and chanting at officers and military police lined up at Lafayette Square, protesters at the White House on Saturday peered through the chain-link fence and saw no one on the other side.

No riot gear, no officers, no military police.

Instead of shouting over the fence, they gathered in a semicircle around speakers talking into megaphones.

“Ain’t no power like the power of the people, cuz the power of the people don’t stop,” they chanted.

“We have effectively surrounded the White House,” one man said on the phone. “I think it’s officially under siege,” another protester said.

Alex Jalloh, 20, looked through the fence, holding onto plastic goggles he no longer expected to need to wear. He saw a scene markedly different from what he saw when he first joined the protests last week.

“This is unity. This is what Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of,” he said. “It’s a big jump from last weekend. We were all very mad and unorganized but now we’re together as a team.”

The police and federal officers’ absence was notable elsewhere, as well. Fewer military police were visible, and those who were visible bore few shields, batons or weapons beside sidearms. They leaned against vehicles, talking with each other — and the marchers mostly ignored them.

Their presence appeared confined to conducting road blocks on L Street NW at various intersections going toward the White House.

Tan Humvees were stationed at 16th and 17th streets NW, where soldiers were sitting atop their vehicles chatting. DEA and other federal officers shared the space, and there was little interaction between them and protesters.

They also served as a first barrier with D.C. police SUVs parked one block down, acting as a second barrier.

By Samantha Schmidt
June 6, 2020 at 3:16 PM EDT

D.C. mayor celebrates pushing ‘the Army away from our city’

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser greeted thousands of protesters gathered on the street she renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza a day earlier.

“I guess you told Trump about the yellow brick road!” a man called to her as she made her way down the street.

Flanked by five security guards sweating in suits, she posed for selfies until the organizer leading the crowd in chants announced her presence: “She’s a lady boss!”

“We would like to hear from you,” he said, handing the mayor the microphone.

“It is so wonderful to see everybody peacefully protesting — wearing your masks,” she began.

She called out the actions of federal police officers Monday in front of “the people’s house,” saying that today she “pushed the Army away from our city.”

She called out the federal show of force, which sent protesters running from gas days before. “You know, if you’re like me, on Monday you saw something you hoped to never see in the United States of America: federal police moving on American people protesting peacefully in front of the people’s house,” she said.

To cheers, she spoke of her 2-year-old daughter.

“I want to grow up in a country where she is not scared to go to the grocery store, not scared to go to work,” she said. “Where she can grow up in an America where she can be a senator in the 51st state, Washington, D.C.”

She doubled down on her condemnation of the presence of out-of-state National Guard: “I want her to grow up and know that her mother had a chance to say no and she did … if they can take over Washington D.C., 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.”

She ended her two minutes on the microphone with a slogan, ready-made to antagonize President Trump: “Today we say no. In November, we say next.”

By Jessica Contrera
June 6, 2020 at 3:10 PM EDT

First-time marchers think now is ‘more than a moment’

“It feels like it’s more than just a moment, said Daniele Darby, 57, who works in financial services in Maryland. “Finally, finally it’s more than just a moment.”

Protesting has “never been my thing,” Darby said. Both she and her co-worker, Carolyn Claiborne, 50, said this was their first protest since the Million Man March.

“I didn’t think that we would still have to do this,” Darby said. “This is for my ancestors. My parents did this so we wouldn’t have to.”

“I have two black sons, four brothers, a husband,” she said. “I have to worry about if my son is gonna come home. I don’t have a fear of car accidents, I have a fear he’s going to be taken from me forever.”

Claiborne nodded as the crowd around them marched to the White House and shouted, “Hands up, don’t shoot.”

“Illness is not in our purview. It’s being pulled over on the side of the road, that’s what I’m worried about,” Claiborne said of her son.

Claiborne said she has regretted not going to the earlier protests this week. “I didn’t want this to be another regret,” she said.

As the marchers walked up 16th Street toward the White House, the crowd had swelled to thousands.

“We got a Million Man March out here,” another protester, Greg Henderson, 25, told his friends as they walked up toward St. John’s Church. “I gotta take some pictures.”

At another demonstration, in front of the Dirksen federal building, a car approached. The driver honked repeatedly and smiled, and the crowd cheered back. Then the driver, a darker skinned man who appeared to be in his 60s, stopped, got out and knelt briefly before the cheering crowd. Then he clasped his hands, as if in gratitude and drove off.

By Samantha Schmidt and Michelle Boorstein
June 6, 2020 at 2:45 PM EDT

White House encircled by more than a mile of fencing

Protesters arriving in the nation’s capital for the ninth consecutive day of demonstrations found the White House encircled by more than a mile of tall metal fencing.

The previous day, work crews had erected enough fencing — reinforced by white concrete barriers — to bar entry to Lafayette Square and to outline half of the Ellipse, the sloping green lawn that abuts the executive residence. But between Friday night and Saturday afternoon — on a day expected to draw tens of thousands to protest in D.C. — they added enough fencing to block the rest of the Ellipse.

In total, Google Maps analysis suggests, roughly 1.7 miles of fencing now surrounds the White House, forming a gigantic metal cocoon.

Although fortifications increased, the federal presence diminished: Compared with previous days, far fewer police or military officers strolled the streets or stood watch inside the park. There were almost no police officers visible anywhere as of the early afternoon.

Instead, the streets belonged to strolling protesters, many of whom stopped to stare and take pictures of the fencing, muttering to each other, “That’s insane” and “I can’t believe they went to this length.” Several leaned in close, angling phone cameras between the chain links, to snap photos of graffiti left on the Treasury Department, before it was barricaded by tall metal.

“We need justice,” someone had sprayed in black. “We are unarmed,” read a message in red.

Jonathan Campos, Keima Jenkins and Sharlene Ramos posed for a selfie at 2 p.m. with their backs against fencing placed just outside the Treasury Department. It was their first day out protesting, and they were midway through walking the perimeter of the Ellipse — they wanted to see how far the fencing went.

They took the selfie to document what they told themselves — signing to each other, because Jenkins and Campos are deaf — was an insane moment in American history. Then they kept walking.

Elsewhere, some demonstrators unfamiliar with the layout of the District decided to put the fencing to practical use.

“How do we get to the White House?” asked a woman, pausing in the middle of 17th Street to squint at her phone.

The man standing beside her snorted. “Simple,” he said. “Just follow the fence.”

By Hannah Natanson
June 6, 2020 at 2:44 PM EDT

Crowd gathers to hear speakers at Lincoln Memorial

In the days leading to Saturday, the masses who assembled across the city skewed young, with 20-somethings filling front lines and teenagers wielding signs. Now there were grandmothers toting toddlers, nuns with masks tucked beneath their habits, men in wide-brim hats shielding their wrinkles from the sun.

Shortly after noon, hundreds of them descended on the Lincoln Memorial, spilling over the steps to the edge of the reflecting pool.

It was here where Martin Luther King shared his dream, and where more than a half-century later, the protesters were returning each day to try again to make it a reality. On Monday, after the demonstrators were tear-gassed outside the White House, someone came here with a can of black spray paint and wrote, “Y’all not tired yet?”

They were tired, so tired, and still they returned.

At first, they stretched out on the steps or posed for photos, waiting for the real moment to begin. The National Guard stood watch from the monument itself, which was blocked by barricades so the protesters could not ascend the steps nearest Lincoln’s feet. A few of the guards, here from Mississippi, wandered between them, lamenting to each other that this was not how they expected their first visit to the nation’s capital to be.

A bespectacled black man walked to the middle of the crowd, turned to face the Washington Monument and raised his voice.

“Excuse me, every one,” Roger Campbell, 30, announced. “I wrote an article recently, and I wanted to read it to everyone if y’all don’t mind.”

Instantly, the crowd moved to surround him on every side. Phones and cameras were raised.

“I’m a little nervous,” he said. A megaphone was handed to him. He began to tell them how often this week white colleagues and friends had asked: “How can I help?”

“I feel that is a loaded question, due to the various answers I can and would like to give,” he said. “You all should try to understand where we as black and brown humans are coming from.”

He wiped sweat from his forehead as more onlookers crowded in. He spoke of the job interview in which they asked about his hair, the time he cut his dreads for a job, “the talk” his father gave him, that was not about “the birds and the bees.”

“It is explained to us that no matter what we do or how far we go in life, we will always be viewed as a black or brown person first. And with that, comes a perception of danger.”

He begged the white people around him — who made up around half of the crowd — to ask their black friends instead about their experiences.

“Ask them,” he said, “to see the world through their eyes.”

When he finished, his voice was cracking and his hands were shaking. A woman with tears soaking her cheeks ran up to hug him. The crowd stayed quiet, waiting for someone else to take the megaphone.

By Jessica Contrera
June 6, 2020 at 2:19 PM EDT

‘These are the values we are trying to teach them’

Ryelee James, 28, had driven from Pittsburgh to Washington on Saturday to join the protests. He took a pit stop in Baltimore, protested for a bit there, and at 1:45 p.m. found himself on Pennsylvania Avenue in the nation’s capital in the middle of the Party of Socialism and Liberation march.

“Defund MPD, Defund MPD,” James chanted, referencing the local D.C. police department.

He said he did not know much about MPD but that corruption in police departments was much the same everywhere.

“There’s bad cops everywhere,” he said

A few feet away from James’s protest on Pennsylvania and Third streets NW, hundreds of law students and their professors gathered for a march of their own to the White House.

“This is an outward expression of what we learned in the classroom,” said Ivy Brewer, a 33-year-old who just graduated from Howard University with an MBA and law degree.

Phil Lee, a law professor at the University of the District of Columbia, decided Saturday would be the day to take his three elementary-school-aged kids to protests. Each child — ages 7, 9 and 11 — drew their own “black lives matter” sign. Lee and his wife, Sue, were confident this march with the law schools would be safe and peaceful like others in recent days.

“This is an important place and safe place for our kids to be,” Susan Lee said. “These are the values we are trying to teach them: Justice and equal protection under the law for all members of society.”

By Perry Stein
June 6, 2020 at 2:10 PM EDT

Thousands gather at White House, spilling into several city blocks

When the marchers who gathered at the Lincoln Memorial reached the assembly in front of the White House, the crowd - now in the thousands - was simply too big to fit into the intersection of 16th and H NW, where demonstrations have centered on previous night.

The masses overflowed at least two blocks in every direction. Shoulders of strangers were inches apart.

Deciding to keep the people moving, the organizers started marching east.

Parents gripped their children’s hands, trying not to lose them in the flow of people. People dipped washcloths in buckets of ice holding free bottles of water, then doused their heads.

By Jessica Contrera
June 6, 2020 at 2:00 PM EDT

Hundreds march in D.C. outside perimeter of closed streets

After turning the steps of the Lincoln Memorial into a stage for speeches passionate and pained, hundreds of people streamed north on 23rd Street NW — outside the perimeter of the downtown area blocked off by law enforcement.

To chants of “Whose streets? Our streets,” the group overflowed across all four lanes of traffic, forcing vehicles on their way out of the city to stop. But behind their windows, the drivers were smiling.

A black family in a lime green Ford Mustang convertible raised their arms and hollered.

Soon, the marchers were taking up more than four city blocks as they passed the gates to George Washington University and the university hospital’s empty drive-through covid-19 testing site, heading toward the White House.

The farther they marched, the larger their sweat stains. Security guards came out of the International Monetary Fund building to watch them go by.

When they reached an armored truck blocking the road, with a dozen National Guardsmen beside it, they stopped.

“Look how many people came out,” an organizer commanded as hundreds paused to kneel in the middle of 19 and H streets. In the distance, they could hear the chants of the end of the parade coming down the street.

“Y’all hear that?” he said. “They’re still coming.

By Jessica Contrera
June 6, 2020 at 1:43 PM EDT

Black Lawyers Matter coalition gathers near Capitol

A few hundred young people gathered on the grassy lawn across from the Capitol, brought together by a coalition of local black law students.

“Come get some water, come get some snacks, we want you guys hydrated,” Tonee Jones, 28, shouted into a bullhorn. The University of the District of Columbia law student, close to getting her degree, was out protesting last weekend and became convinced the movement needed more lawyers. In a few days, she designed and printed the shirt she wore, saying in large print: “Black Lawyers Matter.”

“We know what the law says; we know where it needs to be changed. … We’re out here educating,” she said. The group passed out fliers detailing legal rights, along with Jamaican, Dominican and Jewish deli food.

Helping her was Gregory Brown, a Howard Law student.

“A lot of law students are stuck in this place; they want to be out here but they don’t want to be seen as too radical, because the legal world can be very conservative,” he said. “We wanted to show we’re not just concerned with being employed.”

As the week has gone on, he said, more of his peers seemed comfortable showing their support.

“The activism of the entire city has energized people to where it’s seen not as radical but as a civic duty,” he said.

By Rachel Weiner
June 6, 2020 at 1:35 PM EDT

Metro is preparing for a surge of protesters to use trains, buses

Metro said it has doubled the number of rail cars operating today to help meet the increased demand from the protest, a day after the transit agency also increased its rail passenger capacity by 33 percent.

Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said Metrobus is also adding buses to busier routes, which are being actively monitored to limit the number of people onboard because of the risk of spreading the coronavirus. The agency Friday opened the first and last cars on eight-car trains that had been closed to create a buffer between riders and train operators because of the virus.

But even with the increased service, passengers may find buses and cars more crowded than health officials might recommend.

“Even with this more than doubling of capacity, it’s important to understand that still doesn’t come close to offsetting the social distancing factor,” Stessel said in a text message. “On the bus side, we have street supervisors closely monitoring high-ridership corridors and we are adjusting service and adding buses wherever possible.”

Metrorail is operating until 9 p.m. today. Red Line trains are arriving every 10 minutes, Metro said. The Orange Line is operating between Ballston and New Carrollton every 15 minutes. Blue, Yellow and Green line trains are also arriving every 15 minutes. The Silver Line is closed for previously scheduled maintenance and testing work until the fall.

By Justin George
June 6, 2020 at 1:20 PM EDT

Military helicopter use during protests earlier this week under investigation

The D.C. National Guard on Saturday confirmed it is investigating whether it was appropriate to use one of its helicopters on Monday in support of law enforcement on the ground near Lafayette Square.

“The completion of a thorough and transparent investigation is of the highest priority to me and to the investigative team,” Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, the local guard’s commander, said in a statement. “The team is endeavoring to complete its work as soon as possible, however, fairness demands that the investigation not be rushed. The duration of the investigation will depend on what is uncovered, but more information is expected within the coming days.”

The use of the helicopter to target protesters, a tactic used by the military on battlefields to intimidate opponents, became controversial because spectators said the noisy Lakota medevac aircraft with Red Cross markings hovered at low altitudes and sent a downward rush of air from its rotors into the peaceful crowd.

The helicopter’s use occurred the same night that a phalanx of police and federal agents aggressively rushed off a crowd ahead of President Trump’s walk from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church.

It is unclear when the investigation’s findings will be made public. The Guard said the investigation will be forwarded to the secretary of the Army and defense secretary after completion.

By Patricia Sullivan
June 6, 2020 at 1:09 PM EDT

New arrivals have a choice: Which downtown D.C. protest to join?

When Chris Savage, 64, and his wife arrived in downtown Washington about noon Saturday, there were plenty of protests they could choose from.

They were considering joining a protest at the Lincoln Memorial, but there was also a march along Pennsylvania Avenue NW near the Capitol. Maybe they would join the crowds in front of the White House.

They already had plans to attend a protest near their home in Bethesda.

Saturday had the feel of a protest-style street festival. When Savage walked down 15th Street NW, there were people giving out water and Ben’s Chili Bowl. There were Black Lives Matter murals on storefronts as people posed in front of them. There was music in the distance.

“We’re just surveying the scene,” said Savage, who has been coming out to protest this week to ensure white baby boomers are represented in the crowd. “The protest part is simple: Black Lives Matter."

By Perry Stein
June 6, 2020 at 12:59 PM EDT

On a downtown street, music of a different generation

Just before noon, Chris Legend, a DJ, rolled his Alto box speakers and MacBook up to the corner of 16th and I streets in Northwest Washington and began blaring the hip-hop standards of today.

His booming speakers detracted from the 1960s- and 1970s-era music that had dominated from the speakers of another DJ down the block. As the music played, a black man in a gray Army T-shirt rolled his bike by and complained to Legend and his friends that the speakers should be playing music he believed was better sorted for the movement.

“That’s dance music,” he said. “But it’s not a party.”

The man stayed several minutes, stating his protest to the music.

“Today is not about fighting people like me,” Legend said he responded. “I’m here to support. We’re here to unite people.”

Kesso Lake, 24, and her sister Marly Lake, 21, who volunteered with Legend, pointed out the song playing that moment was Anderson Paak’s “Jet Black.” They told the man the playlist was curated specifically to feature black protest and empowerment themes.

The man was of an older generation and seemingly didn’t understand the music of Kendrick Lamar or Lupe Fiasco — other artists Legend played — has been key to motivating young adults and teens to lead and participate in protests taking place across the nation, the Lake sisters said.

“They set up this block party to rise up and enjoy this playlist,” said Kesso Lake, who helped monitor the DJ station, which was sponsored by Good Projects, a nonprofit started by Georgetown University students to aid local youths.

Protests led by whites might feature more solemn music, Kesso Lake said.

“This is about embracing blackness for what it is and not embracing white ideals or paralleling white people,” she added.

By Justin George
June 6, 2020 at 12:51 PM EDT

‘Racism didn’t just start. It’s just been filmed’: Speakers at Lincoln Memorial call for change

Before a crowd of more than 1,000 people at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, a 20-year-old man recited into a megaphone: “I wonder how Trayvon Martin’s mother feels that her son’s a household name and not a household body,” said Alex Jalloh, 20, of Virginia. “I’m tired. I’m tired of going to funerals where babies are being buried in boxes smaller than the ones they used to put their toys in.”

Next, a radio host named DJ Quicksilva spoke: “Time after time, we see the murders. Racism didn’t just start. It’s just been filmed. Now that we see it, we’re still not getting the justice. This time we’re not going to stop fighting until we get a conviction.”

He gave a charge to every protester for the days and weeks ahead, “Don’t stop the fight until we get a conviction!”

“All lives can’t matter until black lives matter,” he said. “Give us a fair shot and watch what happens.”

Then another speaker began to sing the words to “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Those in the crowd who knew the words joined while others hummed along.

“Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun

Let us march on 'til victory is won”

By Samantha Schmidt
June 6, 2020 at 12:26 PM EDT

Demonstrators merge at the Capitol: ‘We want change! We are the future!'

Groups of protesters crisscrossed the plaza of the U.S. Capitol just before noon, chanting, waving signs, kneeling and marching to and from different directions.

At 11 a.m., the plaza was empty, save a few joggers in the high heat and a half dozen police standing behind metal barricades. A few minutes later, police started scrambling, and a few dozen more officers poured out of the northeast side of the Capitol, as about 100 young marchers, mostly of color, came up the hill to the plaza, marching and chanting: “No justice! No peace.

“We’re here because of George Floyd. But he was just the cherry on top of a sour sundae that’s been there for years,” said a woman with a bullhorn.

Another group of older protesters from a faith group crossed the plaza, heading to another protest downtown.

By 11:45 a.m., a second group of young people approached the plaza, coming down East Capitol Street, chanting, “We want change! We are the future!” Soon the two groups merged on the plaza and a rally began.

Patrick Garland, a teacher from Woodbridge, reflected on the new “Black Lives Matter” sign painted on 16th Street NW.

“As grateful as I am for a road, that doesn’t fix institutional racism. Until laws and citations are changed across the U.S., this does not stop!” he said to cheers.

Later, he told The Washington Post that the protests need help: data analysis, legislation and voting.

“For black people, it’s like emptying an ocean with a bucket. But police reform is first. You can’t be productive if you don’t feel safe. To see a cop behind you and think: ‘Am I going to be pulled over and die?’ That’s what it’s like to be a black man.”

Then the last few protesters packed up as they headed toward the White House.

“Be safe y’all! Hydrate!” yelled a police officer from behind the barriers. Within five minutes, the plaza was again largely empty.

By Michelle Boorstein
June 6, 2020 at 12:21 PM EDT

Hundreds begin to assemble at the Lincoln Memorial

Between the pillars of the Lincoln Memorial, the members of the National Guard could see the people arriving again, on foot, on bikes and on the shoulders of their parents, gathering for another day of protests at the place where Martin Luther King Jr. told the world of his dream.

By noon, hundreds were waiting for a scheduled “die in” to begin, far outnumbering the Guard’s presence of a few dozen.

A bearded black man arrived with a picture of the newly erected fences at the White House: “The Bunker King finally built his damn wall,” his sign said.

A mother begged her young daughter to put her mask back on.

“No problem,” Jason Jones said. “Have a safe day.”

Siblings Jason and Sarah Jones, who are black, were joining the demonstrations for the first time Saturday, after a week of finding it hard to focus at their jobs. Sarah, who teaches a “dialogue across difference” class at American University, felt relieved to finally be a part of the uprising — and wary of how long it would last.

“I am worried that for a lot of people this is just momentary,” she said. “But my life revolves around this because of the color of my skin.”

Beside her, a white man threw a football to his son. People raised their phones to take selfies, pulling down their masks.

“I’m worried that all the sudden we’ll see a spike in coronavirus cases, and we’ll stop talking about black lives matter,” Sarah said.

By Jessica Contrera
June 6, 2020 at 11:27 AM EDT

Vendors selling T-shirts, masks find a silver lining amid despair

Just south of the roadblock set up by a parked tan military Humvee on 16th Street NW, sellers hawked T-shirts printed with the words “I can’t breathe” across a silhouette of George Floyd’s face. Black shirts, blue shirts, yellow shirts, orange, small, large, XL, XXL, all $20 a piece.

Sold by a loose-knit group of D.C. entrepreneurs, the shirts were designed almost instantly when Floyd died.

“Day it happened when he said ‘I can’t breathe,’ it went to print,” said Jessie Watkins, 55, who lives in Southeast D.C.

Watkins said business has been brisk, selling 17 dozen shirts on one day this week. In preparation for today’s march, the group stocked up for another big day.

“A lot of times they put it straight on,” said Blaine Proctor, a colleague of Watkins’s who worked a block away.

Some have bought as many as a dozen shirts to send to relatives, and the vendors are grateful. Even amid the pain, Proctor said, the reality is that the protests have provided his T-shirt business with an opportunity that the coronavirus had taken away. Typically, the vendors would be traveling across the country selling all sorts of shirts at festivals and other events — but the pandemic ended that until Floyd’s death.

“Covid-19, it put a stop to everything,” said Proctor, who is black. “This is a blessing right here. I’m not saying I’m happy with what happened to George Floyd. I’m not.” But the protests have allowed him to contribute to the cause while also earning money.

All around, people walked in a festival-like atmosphere. Loud speakers played everything from Sam Cooke and Al Green to Van Morrison amid protest chants, while people carried signs such as “Black Lives and Voices Matter,” walked dogs and rolled in slowly on bikes. Many stopped to marvel at the giant yellow letters under them: “Black Lives Matter,” which the city painted Friday to support protesters and also send a message to President Trump.

Nearby at 16th and I streets NW, between the large yellow M and A on the asphalt, Ben Bullock stood with a black wire cart and a crowd around him. Inside his cart were thin plastic cases filled with black face masks. Some had white lettering that said “Black Lives Matter” while others had red fists adorned with the same message.

“$15 each,” he told a buyer.

Bullock, 57, is an assistant basketball coach at Prince George’s County Community College. Typically, he would be hosting basketball camps in the summer, a crucial part of his income. But the coronavirus has taken that opportunity away.

In the protests, he saw opportunity and a need. Making and selling T-shirts to black empowerment groups and for festivals has always been a side gig for him and a business partner, he said. So they decided to order up masks. If he wasn’t selling them, he said, a white entrepreneur would be.

“As a basketball coach, I really don’t make a lot of money,” Bullock said. “I feel good about it because white America capitalizes on all of us, and I’m contributing to the cause.”

He said he is employing five others, walking around selling his masks. “An independent business,” he said, keeping money in the community.

By Justin George
June 6, 2020 at 11:20 AM EDT

U.S. Capitol grounds are getting fenced off as families, children prepare for protest

There were no protesters at the Capitol on Saturday morning, just runners. But day by day, the Capitol has been increasingly walled off.

Officers ran tests of the audible emergency notification system, sound echoing off the stone buildings. Tall black fencing had gone up in front of parts of the Capitol building. While people continued to jog along the paths and the edges of the grounds, officers waved them off if they veered in toward the building.

Police lights flashed at intersections, with military trucks blocking Pennsylvania Avenue west toward the White House. Folding tables were set up, with cases of water on them. People jogged along the Mall and did jumping jacks in front of the National Gallery.

At 9:45 a.m., Shanise Hamilton and members of her family, including eight children, were walking along the Mall, already tired and hot. They had walked from their homes in Southeast and Southwest Washington.

This week was Hamilton’s first time protesting. “We’re all tired,” she said, tired of people dying. “The kids wanted to make a difference. The fact that they are kids of color, I didn’t just want them to witness history, I wanted them to be a part of history.” And maybe having kids at the forefront would help make change, she said.

Zinna Marcus, 9, said she wants “to see everyone treated equally.”

Antonio Hamilton, 11, said he wants “people to get along and for the police to stop killing unarmed people.”

Kaylin Schuler, who’s also 11, said she hopes “for people with my complexion to be able to stand up for themselves.”

“Police need to communicate better with black people and understand us a little better,” said Amari Schuler, 11.

They were going to get as close to the White House as they could, said Shanise Hamilton, 31. But they were going to stay only 20 or 30 minutes. She wanted to keep the children safe.

By Susan Svrluga
June 6, 2020 at 11:03 AM EDT

Where are the marches headed? ‘You’ll see when we get there.’

A crowd of about 100 protesters peeled away from the White House to march through residential neighborhoods north of downtown.

They chanted, “No justice, no peace!” and “Power to the people!” and knelt at intersections far from the centers of power that have been the sites of recent protests, urging joggers and people sunbathing in Logan Circle to “march with us!”

Although few joined in, many drivers honked their support, and one man making a delivery on a bicycle raised a fist in solidarity.

The man leading the protesters wouldn’t say where the march was headed. “You’ll see when we get there,” he said.

By Justin Wm. Moyer
June 6, 2020 at 10:24 AM EDT

Photos: Washington prepares for a day of demonstrations

As crowds began to gather Saturday in Washington, protesters and authorities expect it to be a big day for demonstrations about police brutality stemming from the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Here are images from the city Saturday morning.

By Patricia Sullivan
June 6, 2020 at 10:19 AM EDT

After taking a knee for eight minutes, protesters march along K Street

At about 10 a.m., dozens of protesters gathered at 16th and I streets NW in front of the White House.

The barrier erected days ago north of Lafayette Square remained, and those gathered — some pushing strollers, most wearing masks — were subdued. Before noon on what was expected to be a warm day in Washington, a speaker with a megaphone urged the crowd to take a knee in the intersection for eight minutes.

“If you can’t take a knee, respect the silence,” he said. The crowd knelt. The only sounds were the chirping of birds, the clicking of news media cameras and the blast of a boombox a few blocks north, where crowds were gathering at what was renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza a day earlier.

“My knee hurts,” the man said after about two minutes of kneeling. The crowd laughed.

As protesters marched north on 16th Street NW, a man with a guitar played “Lean on Me.” There were no phalanxes of D.C. police and other law-enforcement personnel that had been seen in recent days.

Savonnie Hawkins marched east on K Street with his 3-year-old daughter, Nyeisha. He said he was marching to bring attention to police brutality. "It’s the duty of every black person to be here,” he said. “It’s the duty of every person to be here.”

By Justin Wm. Moyer
June 6, 2020 at 10:01 AM EDT

Vehicles prohibited on downtown streets Saturday for protests

D.C. police began prohibiting vehicle traffic in much of downtown Washington today, starting at 6 a.m., in preparation for thousands of protesters expected to descend on the area.

The north-south closure is roughly between L Street NW and Independence Avenue SW. The west boundary is along 19th Street NW, while the eastern boundary is roughly 9th Street NW downtown and Third Street NW along the Mall.

By Emily Davies
June 6, 2020 at 10:01 AM EDT

After week of protest, Saturday expected to bring largest crowds yet to Washington

Unlike many other large-scale demonstrations that the District hosts, no one person or organization is leading Saturday’s events.

Nearly a dozen different demonstrations run by as many organizations or individuals have been advertised for Saturday, starting at 6 a.m. and running into the night. Many protesters plan to stay out until the early hours of Sunday morning.

There are no leaders to speak to and no agenda to follow.

Stages and podiums that are hallmarks of rallies such as the March for Our Lives and the Women’s March on Washington have given way to people with megaphones commanding the attention of nearby crowds.

For the past eight days, the protests have ebbed and flowed with the energy of the day. Demonstrators march from memorials to the White House and back again.

By Marissa Lang, Antonio Olivo, Perry Stein and Kyle Swenson
June 6, 2020 at 9:59 AM EDT

Barr seeks to dissociate himself from move on demonstrators outside Lafayette Square

Attorney General William P. Barr sought to dissociate himself Friday from police’s move earlier this week to push back a crowd of largely peaceful demonstrators using horses and gas, claiming that he did not give the “tactical” order for law enforcement on the scene to move in.

The Associated Press reported that Barr told the news organization that the move against the protesters — which has been widely condemned — was already in process when he was spotted at the scene near the White House early Monday evening conferring with law enforcement on the ground.

“I’m not involved in giving tactical commands like that,” Barr told the Associated Press. “I was frustrated and I was also worried that as the crowd grew, it was going to be harder and harder to do. So my attitude was get it done, but I didn’t say, ‘Go do it.’ ”

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Barr personally ordered the crowd of protesters be pushed back as part of a plan hatched far earlier in the day. According to a Justice Department official, law enforcement authorities, including Barr, had decided to extend the security perimeter outside the White House after earlier demonstrations over the death of George Floyd at police hands in Minneapolis turned violent. When Barr came to the scene Monday afternoon, the official said, he was “surprised” to see that hadn’t been done.

By Matt Zapotosky