The woman lowered the phone, apologized and walked away.
“My blackness and my fear,” Asif fumed, “is not something for your Instagram aesthetic to show that you’re woke, so you can feel like a white savior.”
If downtown Washington took on a festive feel at moments on Sunday, with demonstrators breaking into song and otherwise relishing their place in a historic setting, it was mostly a stage for people to vent, shout and express outrage over a wide spectrum of issues, from President Trump to racism to policing.
“George Floyd! George Floyd! George Floyd!” protesters chanted, invoking the name of the black man who died in police custody last week in Minneapolis. As they reached Lafayette Square in the afternoon, they lined up along the barricades facing officers in riot gear several yards away.
At various points, demonstrators threw water bottles and eggs at the officers. At other points, law enforcement officers deployed tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets to move the crowd back.
“You’re on the wrong side!” a black protester shouted, pointing at an African American Park Police officer a few feet away. “You are a token! I’m talking to you! You, sister!”
On a brilliant spring day, with many District residents sunbathing, picnicking and enjoying the slight easing of the pandemic shutdown, there was also a wariness across the city as store merchants braced for another potential night of looting.
Work crews on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown boarded up the entrance to an Apple Store and other shops. Downtown, where looters smashed windows Saturday night, plywood was installed on office building exteriors.
By early evening, those precautions had not proved necessary. But a sense of percolating chaos pervaded the streets adjoining the White House as protesters hurled bottles of waters at police, who swatted them away with their riot shields.
“What’s the matter? Can’t handle some kids throwing water bottles?” Maisie Howard shouted at the officers. The pop-pop-pop sounds of pepper spray could be heard traveling toward the crowd.
Howard had already been tear-gassed. Her friend had been struck by a pepper ball. But she wasn’t leaving, not anytime soon.
“I’m so angry,” she said, seething. “We need a change.”
At the U.S. Capitol, protesters chanted, sang hymns and implored police officers lined up at the base of the steps to take a knee. The officers, silent and wearing masks, ignored their requests.
“How much are they paid to oppress their own people — $60,000?” Mordecai Andemichael asked his friend, Daniella LaGuerre, as they gazed at the officers.
“There is that fear that strikes your heart as soon as I see a cop come up behind me,” said Andemichael, 29, of Silver Spring.
“And when they shine that bright light on you,” added LaGuerre, 27, of Columbia.
“We weren’t born with that fear,” Andemichael said.
Before heading toward the White House, LaGuerre tried one more time to talk with the officers.
No one responded.
“Even though you can’t talk, I’m sure you’re listening,” she said. “I’m hoping.”
Over on Constitution Avenue, a crowd of demonstrators ran from Lafayette Square toward where Ubaida Sims was standing.
“What we doing?” he said, shaking his head. “Where are the leaders?”
Sims had a different vision for what the demonstration should be, which he shared with people as they passed: a massive, peaceful cookout on the White House lawn.
“Everybody coming out, cooking, vibing,” he said. “Bring the love, the harmony, unity. Bring the love and bring the change, instead of throwing bottles and making pretty girls run.”
One young protester, overhearing Sims, spray-painted on a nearby wall: “Next time it’s a cookout on the White House lawn.”
As Davien Armstrong, 23, who is African American, headed toward Lafayette Square, his friend, Brenda Medrano-Frias, 21, expressed fear for his safety.
“If the bullets start flying,” she had just warned another friend, “you’ve got to get out.”
“He is like a brother to me,” Medrano-Frias said of Armstrong. “We can’t stand for this.”
Others, such as Marjan Naderi, 18, spent their time distributing food, hand sanitizer and water.
“We got sandwiches, bananas . . . clementines!” she said, opening a rainbow shoulder bag after a group of boys stopped her.
A stranger was sifting through her bag when police fired tear gas into the crowd.
Naderi grabbed her older sister, Tameana Naderi, 20, and sprinted toward the street.
“Why they got to run every time?” said Tameana, also carrying a bag of supplies. She eyed the group of young women several feet away screaming “F--- the police.”
“It’s scary, dude, they’re scared,” Marjan said. “They’re fearful.”
The sisters had just begun doling out water and food again when there was another rumble. They hitched their bags up on their shoulders and started sprinting.
At the barricades, a white man shouted at the officers, “I’m a conservative and I’m here!”
“If you’re conservative, why don’t you go to the other side?” another demonstrator replied.
“I’m here in solidarity!” said the man, who declined to identify himself but said he is a Defense Department contractor from Virginia. “The only way we get change is if we stand in solidarity.”
By 4:30 p.m., Phillip White, 20, had seen and heard enough. He headed home as clusters of protesters were still arriving.
“Honestly, I fear for my life a little bit,” said White, who is African American and grew up in the District.
He had debated whether to go to the demonstration at all, because he feared being exposed to the novel coronavirus and because of the violence that erupted on the previous two nights.
But he decided to take the dual risk, he said, because police brutality is an important enough issue.
“I said what I had to say,” he said as he left. “Now, I’m out.”
Antonio Olivo and Marissa J. Lang contributed to this report.