As the protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police stretched into their 12th day in Washington, District leaders proposed significant reforms to the city’s police force, saying the protesters have been heard and police practices must change.

Here are some significant developments:

• The National Park Service said Wednesday evening that the public would have access to Lafayette Square starting Thursday, though a portion of temporary fencing would remain some damaged areas. The announcement came after confusion earlier in the day about how long the fencing near the park would remain. Other fencing surrounding the White House was removed earlier Wednesday.

• Late Wednesday in Richmond, protesters pulled down a statue of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy. The statue was located about a half-mile from a monument of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, which Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has said he plans to remove.

• George Floyd’s family and the Rev. Al Sharpton have begun planning for 100,000 people to converge on Washington in a recommitment to the ideals championed by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. more than half a century ago, according to a permit application filed with the National Park Service.

June 11, 2020 at 12:33 AM EDT
Link copied

Lafayette Square reopened to public early Thursday

By Clarence Williams and Hannah Natanson

Lafayette Square near the White House reopened early Thursday after crews opened two gates along H Street NW around 11:58 p.m. Wednesday.

Heavy rains chased away groups of protesters that had remained outside the area. But a small group was nearby to hear a Secret Service officer say, “The park is open, folks.”

After that, a few people walked into Lafayette just after midnight.

The National Park Service said earlier in the evening that the Secret Service was working to remove temporary security fencing around the park and that it would reopen Thursday. Still, it said, "some temporary fencing will remain around areas damaged (such as the Lafayette Lodge House) while the National Park Service makes repairs.”

Access to Lafayette Square has been blocked by fencing during demonstrations in the District this month. In all, an estimated 1.7-miles of fencing had surrounded the White House in recent days, according to a Google Maps analysis.

Crews began removing much of the fencing on Wednesday, including along the Ellipse. But the fate of the fencing around the park was up in the air earlier in the day after the Secret Service said it was “continuing discussions with the US Park Police regarding the temporary security fencing in and around Lafayette Park.”

April Bethea contributed to this report.

June 10, 2020 at 11:41 PM EDT
Link copied

Jefferson Davis statue pulled down in Richmond

By Gregory S. Schneider

The Jefferson Davis statue on Monument Avenue in Richmond was pulled down by protesters about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday. Police were surrounding the statue late in the evening, with ropes attached to the separated base.

A small crowd looked on, laughing but subdued.

The statue of Davis, the president of the Confederacy, had stood since 1907.

“Keep people waiting long enough and something like this is bound to happen,” said a man who would only give his name as Thomas, 24. He had ridden over on his bike after word spread on social media.

“It’s impressive and it’s important that they come down,” said a woman named Maddy, 24, who only gave a first name. “These are symbols of oppression that target a very specific group of people.”

Many of the onlookers had not seen the statue come down.

A large group was spotted near the statue before it was toppled. One person said a small group with tools and ropes had brought it down using a car.

When a tow truck arrived and workers began sizing up how to remove the figure from the street, the crowd began a short chant of “Na na na na, hey hey, goodbye.”

But not everyone was cheerful.

Marcus, 34, who like the others only gave one name, said he had grown up seeing the statues and as an African American had hoped they would come down.

“But not like this,” he said. “It would’ve been nice to see this stuff come down without having to protest for it. You shouldn’t have to kill someone and get a riot behind it to have some action.”

John McDonnell contributed to this report.

June 10, 2020 at 2:34 PM EDT
Link copied

A gallery of pain and protest

By Bonnie Berkowitz, Joel Fox, Kevin Uhrmacher, Gabriel Florit and Monica Ulmanu

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, protesters transformed hundreds of feet of chain-link fencing erected to protect the White House into a massive, makeshift art project that demands equal protection for all Americans.

“Black people tend to take things meant to hold them back … and turn them into things that make us stronger, and that’s what happened here,” said protester Dayna Crawmer about the way people reinvented the fence as a tool to amplify their messages. Just below her two signs is the word “Ahimsa,” a Sanskrit word meaning nonviolence and respect for all living things.

Click here for a visual tour of the makeshift gallery.

June 10, 2020 at 12:28 PM EDT
Link copied

More than 1,250 former Justice Dept. workers call for internal watchdog to probe Barr role in clearing demonstrators from Lafayette Square

By Matt Zapotosky

More than 1,250 former Justice Department workers on Wednesday called on the agency’s internal watchdog to investigate Attorney General William P. Barr’s involvement in law enforcement’s move last week to push a crowd of largely peaceful demonstrators back from Lafayette Square using horses and gas.

In a letter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the group said it was “deeply concerned about the Department’s actions, and those of Attorney General William Barr himself, in response to the nationwide lawful gatherings to protest the systemic racism that has plagued this country throughout its history.”

“In particular, we are disturbed by Attorney General Barr’s possible role in ordering law enforcement personnel to suppress a peaceful domestic protest in Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020, for the purpose of enabling President Trump to walk across the street from the White House and stage a photo op at St. John’s Church, a politically motivated event in which Attorney General Barr participated,” the group wrote.

June 10, 2020 at 12:07 PM EDT
Link copied

Sharpton, family of George Floyd plan for 100,000 at August demonstration in Washington, permit says

By Marissa Lang

George Floyd’s family and the Rev. Al Sharpton have begun planning for 100,000 people to converge on Washington in a recommitment to the ideals championed by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. more than half a century ago, according to a permit application filed with the National Park Service.

The application, which outlines plans that include 1,000 buses, a line of Jumbotrons and a mass procession from the Lincoln Memorial to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, was submitted to the Park Service on Friday — the day after Sharpton announced plans for a new March on Washington to push for criminal justice reform on the 57th anniversary of King’s original March on Washington.

“In one era, we had to fight slavery,” Sharpton has said. “Another era, we had to fight Jim Crow; another era, we dealt with voting rights. This is the era to deal with policing and criminal justice. We need to go back to Washington and stand up — black, white, Latino, Arab — in the shadows of Lincoln and tell them this is the time to stop this.”

Floyd’s family, thrust into the national spotlight after his death, will lead the march, Sharpton has said. The family this week laid Floyd to rest and celebrated his life at a funeral in Houston. On Wednesday, sibling Philonise Floyd pleaded with members of Congress to enact policing reforms to ensure that his brother would be “more than another name on a list that won’t stop growing.”

It was not immediately clear whether the Park Service would grant a permit for the mass gathering on the Mall.

The agency suspended its issuance of protest permits in response to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic that recommended that gatherings of more than 10 people be banned.

The pandemic, still raging in the United States and around the world, is unlikely to dissipate before August.

On Aug. 28, marchers are expected to walk down the sides of the reflecting pool and gather at the Lincoln Memorial, according to the application. They will continue south to Independence Avenue and march to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

The permit application calls for the closures of several main roads to accommodate the march, which organizers wrote would span locations along the Mall and include a gathering at the African American Civil War Museum on Vermont Avenue NW near U Street.

June 10, 2020 at 11:56 AM EDT
Link copied

Women consider next steps for Black Lives Matter movement

By Emily Davies

Nicole Goods, 47, drove six hours from Charlotte to protest at Black Lives Matter Plaza. She had spent the long car ride listening to a Black Lives Matter Movement playlist, preparing to take a stand when she reached the White House. But when she arrived Wednesday morning, her determination and anger felt surprisingly out of place.

“I am like, ‘Um, is the protest happening tonight or something?’ ” she said, looking around at the handful of people taking selfies around her. “I am worried. … We have seen symbols taken down and symbols put up, but we want to see action.”

Goods then turned to Tabilah Mims, 46, whom she had met just moments earlier while taking pictures of the plaza.

“I would like to see this government repay black people for the work our ancestors did building this country,” Goods said to her new friend, discussing a way to capture the power of the moment and then turn it into lasting policy change.

Mims scoffed. “No way you are getting reparations,” she said. “But schools. Let’s start with schools. We want the same tools and the same opportunities as everyone else.”

The two women continued to discuss the best way forward, standing over a yellow star freshly painted on the pavement. They plan to come back to the plaza every day this week.

June 10, 2020 at 11:08 AM EDT
Link copied

Signs of historic week slowly removed at Black Lives Matter Plaza

By Emily Davies

Beneath the Black Lives Matter Plaza street sign, the area once filled with tear gas and swarms of protesters was slowly shedding signs of its historic last week.

On Wednesday morning, torn tape and wilted flowers replaced the collection of protest-inspired art that hung on the fence surrounding the White House.

Three men perched around the statue of Gen. Tadeusz Kosciuszko, removing any damage to the bronze figures with flames and fresh paint. And Reginald Guy, who had been serving burgers to protesters for 12 days, decided to take his first day of rest since the protests began.

“Even God needed a day off,” he said. “This protest is not a protest right now; it is a community building workshop.”

Susi Atkinson, 71, came to see the fence one last time before the National Park Service takes it down, which it said it would do “on or about” Wednesday.

Atkinson sat on a street curb, one hand gloved and the other wiping tears that streamed down her face and pooled just above her mask.

“This place has become a sanctuary for me,” she said. “A place to pray and think and remember and grieve.”

Last week, she had seen one of the first signs taped to the fence, which listed the names of lives lost to police violence.

She came back on Saturday to see a young girl in her mother’s arms, fastening a “Black Lives Matter” sign to the fence. On Wednesday morning, she stared through the black wire to the White House, silently.

June 10, 2020 at 10:31 AM EDT
Link copied

Montgomery County considers rolling back program that puts police in schools

By Rebecca Tan

Lawmakers and officials in Montgomery County are weighing the possibility of decreasing or eliminating the regular presence of police in public schools — a change in position from just four months ago.

A proposal to expand the county’s $3 million School Resource Officer Program was removed in February after community backlash, but lawmakers at the time stopped short of saying they intend to roll back the program. County Executive Marc Elrich (D) said in February he was uncertain as to whether the SRO program should be expanded.

He appeared to have changed his position in an interview Tuesday, saying: “I was never a big fan of the SROs. I argued more than once that we should put counselors in schools rather than using police.”

Elrich said increasing the number of police in Montgomery County Public Schools was a request of lawmakers, though in February, lawmakers said they were taken off-guard by his proposal for a $1.4 million expansion of the program, which Elrich later rescinded.

County council member Will Jawando (D-At Large) said he is reviewing the police budget and considering a proposal to reduce or eliminate funding for the SRO program.

“A budget is a choice,” said Jawando, who has positioned himself as an advocate for criminal justice reform. “We spend significant amounts of money in police in schools — that’s a budgetary position and I’m going to be looking into ways to shift that type of funding.”

Council member Tom Hucker (D-District 5) said he also supports fewer police in schools. Council member Hans Riemer (D-At Large) said he would like to “review the program.”

But not all lawmakers were on board: Council President Sidney Katz (D-District 3) said he remains an advocate of the program.

“I know that some people have concerns with police presence in schools,” he said in a statement. “But I have seen first hand where many young people have been comforted by the officer’s presence and have found the officer to be both a friend and a mentor.”

The Board of Education in neighboring Prince George’s County is also considering whether to end its contract with police and remove officers from public schools.

June 10, 2020 at 9:25 AM EDT
Link copied

Secret Service delays removal of fencing at Lafayette Square

By Hannah Natanson

The Secret Service on Wednesday delayed the removal of the tall metal fence that has kept protesters far away from Lafayette Square and the White House for the past several days.

The more than one mile of fencing that surrounds the Ellipse, the sweeping green lawns south of the White House, will come down “on or about” Wednesday, a Secret Service spokeswoman said. That timeline does not appear to include the fencing around Lafayette Square.

“The Secret Service is in continuing discussions with the U.S. Park Police regarding the temporary security fencing in and around Lafayette Square,” the spokeswoman said. She declined to provide a timeline for its removal.

On Tuesday, the National Park Service said it would remove all fencing — around the Ellipse and around Lafayette Square — by Wednesday. But the agency began hedging near the close of the day, issuing a second statement that said the fence would come down “on or about” Wednesday and noting that the Park Service was maintaining constant contact with the Secret Service.

Officials put up the fence early in the past week, shortly after police aggressively cleared a crowd of largely peaceful demonstrators from outside the square using chemical irritants and rubber bullets.

In the days since, thousands have gathered outside the square to protest. More recently, protesters converted the fencing to a crowdsourced memorial wall, filled with posters, names and paintings of black men and women who died during encounters with police.

Early Wednesday, demonstrators took down much of the art stuck to the fence. They rehung some signs on a concrete wall across the street, took some home for safekeeping and stowed some away for Smithsonian museums, which had expressed interest in preserving the protest art for the historical record.

June 10, 2020 at 6:16 AM EDT
Link copied

Two years after her son was shot by D.C. police, a mother hopes reforms bring answers

By Rachel Chason and Peter Hermann

Hundreds of protesters who minutes earlier had been dancing in the street fell silent when Kenithia Alston described the fatal shooting of her son by D.C. police.

Her voice breaking, Alston detailed a futile effort to get information about his killing and a more than year-long, unsuccessful fight to persuade Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) to publicly release body-camera footage. During days of demonstrations in the nation’s capital, Alston has repeatedly spoken to crowds about the 2018 death of her son, Marqueese Alston, hoping to draw attention to a lack of transparency that activists have for years decried.

“Tell this mayor to release the body cam,” Kenithia Alston said Saturday, speaking from the bed of a truck where a band had been blasting go-go music. “We got ‘Black Lives Matter’ spray-painted across Lafayette Square. Do black lives really matter?”

With the District a focal point in nationwide protests and the D.C. Council on Tuesday approving a sweeping package of police reform measures, Alston and activists are hoping the moment for change has arrived.

June 10, 2020 at 6:12 AM EDT
Link copied

Northam vows to fight temporary injunction against removing Robert E. Lee statue

By Justin George

RICHMOND — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday vowed to fight a temporary injunction from a Richmond Circuit Court judge that prevents the state from immediately removing the statue of Robert E. Lee that towers 60 feet above this city’s Monument Avenue.

“We’ve been preparing for this for a year,” Northam said in a news briefing. “This is a statue that is divisive; it needs to come down and we are on very legal solid grounds to have it taken down.”

Northam (D) announced plans last week to remove the bronze figure of the Confederate general from its granite base and put it in storage amid protests in Richmond and across the country against police brutality toward African Americans. Late Tuesday, protesters brought down another statue in the city, that of Christopher Columbus in Byrd Park.

Preparations began Monday, when state surveyors used a bucket truck to examine the figure and the city prohibited parking on the street around it through Friday. But efforts came to an abrupt halt with the judge’s ruling Monday night, which prevents any further action for 10 days.

June 10, 2020 at 6:06 AM EDT
Link copied

Protesters tear down statue of Christopher Columbus in Richmond

By Laura Vozzella

Protesters have torn down a statue of Christopher Columbus in Richmond’s Byrd Park. The statue was seen submerged in a lake at the park Tuesday evening.

Late Tuesday, a few dozen people gathered in Byrd Park, looking at the bronze state submerged facedown on the edge of Fountain Lake.

“I’m not going to say I approve, but I’m not going to say I disapprove either,” said Ronald Johnson, 33, a call center supervisor who has marched five nights in Richmond over the past 12 days. “It would have been more, but I got blisters on my feet.”

Johnson was with at least 100 people at the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee — which Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has said he plans to put in storage — when word spread that the Columbus statue has been torn down. A “massive cheer” went up, he said, and he drove over to Byrd Park to see it for himself.

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the idea for the statue came from the city’s Italian-American community in the early 1920s. It was dedicated in December 1927, the newspaper reported.