Paul was confronted at the corner of 14th and F streets NW, with protesters shouting “Say her name — Breonna Taylor!” and “You are a degenerate!” At one point, Paul almost fell as a police officer collided into him after a protester appeared to collide with the officer. Police whisked Paul into the hotel, and the group of protesters who had been following him dispersed.
The senator later tweeted, “Just got attacked by an angry mob of over 100, one block away from the White House. Thank you to @DCPoliceDept for literally saving our lives from a crazed mob.”
Minor scuffles also broke out as a white man wearing blackface walked through Black Lives Matter Plaza and was slapped by a black protester who was then apprehended by police.
The unruly conclusion to the protest followed what had been a mostly peaceful, if passionate, night of demonstrations.
Music blasted down 16th Street NW from the Black Lives Matter street mural to the fencing shielding Lafayette Square. Lines of young Black demonstrators danced in formation to hip-hop over the mural. Closer to the White House, a racially diverse crowd jammed to music. A group of young drummers started performing between them in front of a large “Black Lives Matter” cloth draped over the AFL-CIO headquarters building.
As the president delivered his speech, beginning a little before 10:30 p.m., the honking of horns and music from protesters were audible on the South Lawn and occasionally in his televised address. Just east of the White House, about 100 people with bullhorns, electric sirens, compressed air horns, trumpets and cowbells added to the cacophony. Elsewhere, protesters chanted “Black Lives Matter” and go-go music blared.
Earlier, tempers flared briefly between demonstrators and a handful of supporters of the president. Police moved in to separate the sides, sparking tension between officers and protesters.
D.C. police on Friday said eight people had been arrested during the demonstrations Thursday night into Friday morning. All were adults. Charges include assault on police officers, assault, simple assault and destruction of property. Six were men, and two were women. They ranged in age from 18 to 37.
Prosecutors decided to pursue charges against four of those people and dropped charges against the other four.
One video posted on social media showed a White man surrounded by protesters with water thrown in his direction before he and several other people fell to the ground.
A Washington Post reporter observed him shortly after 9:30 p.m. standing up with blood on his jaw and a gash by his right ear. A person wearing a medic shirt helped escort the man away from a throng of protesters, one of whom threw water again in his direction.
It was unclear what sparked the confrontation. The Post observed a person with a megaphone and other protesters following him several minutes before he fell. Several protesters later accused him of hitting a Black woman — which he denied.
A little after 8 p.m., a group calling itself “Refuse Fascism” led a crowd of about 150 protesters from Black Lives Matter Plaza toward the Trump hotel, attracting a chorus of honking car horns as they cut through downtown traffic along K Street. As D.C. police scrambled to block off intersections to allow the group to safely pass, the demonstrators chanted to the beat of a drum. Some invited people eating outside at a restaurant to join them — there were no takers — while others stopped and posed for selfies.
That prompted a halt to the march and a scolding from one of the organizers.
“Are you kidding me?” a woman shouted into her bullhorn. “People have died and you’re stopping for a photo op? We’ve got to stay focused, people. We’ve got to move like water.”
Carl Dix, one of the group’s leaders, said the march was meant to emphasize the urgency behind the election, which he said will determine whether the country takes an irretrievable tilt toward fascism.
“The Republican National Convention is a celebration of how far they’ve come in hammering a fascist agenda into place,” Dix said. “I’ve been fighting for revolution for 50 years, so it ain’t like I love what’s been happening in this country. But I also see that these are fascists.”
Thursday’s demonstrations began quietly, as small groups began arriving on Black Lives Matter Plaza a little after 6 p.m., chanting and playing music.
Throughout the summer, the area around the White House has been a focal point for protesters demanding justice and accountability for police brutality against Black people. They called for charges against police officers in the killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville and, most recently, in the case of Jacob Blake, who was shot by police in Kenosha, Wis., on Sunday and is paralyzed.
“We have been tear gassed probably like 67 times,” said Precious, 26, who declined to give her last name.
The group danced to the beat of snare drums and chanted.
Nearby, a man with a bike trailer warning of an arriving “Judgement Day,” counseled the arriving crowd over a loudspeaker.
“We’ve got to pace ourselves!” he shouted. “Pace ourselves!”
By 7:30 p.m., there were several hundred protesters including people who traveled for Friday’s March on Washington but wanted to send another message to Trump before his nomination speech from the South Lawn.
Will Adams, a 33-year-old White resident of Detroit, moved up his trip when he learned GOP convention events would be held in Washington.
“When our kids are like, ‘What did you do when the world went to s---?,’ we want to say we stood up, we did something, we went hard,” Adams said. “It’s not enough to just be against hate, be against racism. You have to be loud and drown him out.”
At the end of Trump’s speech, as an extraordinarily loud and lavish fireworks display lit up the Washington Monument, protesters had one final rejoinder.
They looked to a large light display on 15th Street NW criticizing the president’s response to the pandemic. “Trump Failed,” the illuminated signs read. “180,000 + Died.”
Fredrick Kunkle, Clarence Williams, Peter Hermann, Keith L. Alexander and Erin Cox contributed to this report.