WASHINGTON - As many as 2,000 demonstrators descended on Washington on Tuesday, the largest and most boisterous crowd to gather in the nation's capital during five straight days of protests over George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody.
Banging on fences erected near the White House and marching through the city to the U.S. Capitol, the largely peaceful protesters included high schoolers and stay-at-home moms, young parents and toddlers, elderly couples and large families. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., spoke with protesters, joined by her husband, Bruce Mann, and her golden retriever, Bailey.
Tensions flared at multiple flash points at in the day, where protesters facing an even larger contingent of federal law enforcement authorities than Monday. Some turbulent gatherings Tuesday were hit with pepper spray and other shows of force as armored vehicles blocked city streets.
By the time 7 p.m. hit, the scene was largely calm as the crowd of protesters took a knee in the middle of the streets and authorities made no early moves to enforce curfew.
Many protesters said they came out because of what happened Monday, when hundreds of peaceful demonstrators were forcefully cleared from Lafayette Square - one of the country's most symbolic places of protest - by federal forces at the behest of Attorney General William Barr. Many were struck with pepper balls, others pushed and hit.
"You disgrace the constitution," someone screamed at federal forces Tuesday evening.
"Show us that you're with us," a group of protesters yelled, asking them to take a knee. The officers stood up straight and did not comply.
"Shame, shame shame," they yelled at the officers.
At the outset of Tuesday's protests, hundreds of demonstrators found a newly erected fence around Lafayette Square, where protesters were removed Monday evening shortly before President Donald Trump walked through the area on his way to St. John's Episcopal Church, holding up a bible for television cameras.
Outside the fence, protesters knelt with fists and signs raised and chanted at a small cluster of federal police in the middle of the park. The officers, in short blue shirts and bulletproof vests, were a departure from the riot-ready officers that protesters have encountered at previous days' protest.
"Don't do what you did last night," a protester yelled through the tall black fence.
The closed park and the anger around it was just of many sign's tightening by federal forces. Armored vehicles blocked city streets around the White House as scores of federal law enforcement officers patrolled on foot. Meanwhile, city police patrolled neighborhoods that had seen five straight nights of vandalism, fires, and looting - all of which prompted the president to order a crackdown.
The protests in the District of Columbia were one of dozens that continued to sweep through the nation. One of the largest peaceful protests on Tuesday was in Houston, the hometown of Floyd - whose death in Minneapolis police custody launched waves of marches. Journalists on the scene estimated there were 25,000 marchers, including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, some of Floyd's childhood friends, and a group of black cowboys on horseback.
In other cities local officials spent Tuesday dealing with violent incidents from previous evenings. In Atlanta, prosecutors charged six police officers, after they used tasers on two unarmed black college students driving downtown. In Richmond, Virginia, the mayor apologized for a Monday incident, when police had tear-gassed peaceful protesters. And in Philadelphia, the mayor criticized police officers for posing for photos with a group of white vigilantes carrying baseball bats and shovels.
Nationwide, more than 60 million people were under curfews as a result of the protests, in 200 cities and 27 states. The measures are intended to separate peaceful protesters from looters and vandals by requiring the peaceful protesters to have their say in daylight and go home. At least 17,000 National Guard troops have been activated to deal with the protests.
And still, the protests kept growing. In Milwaukee, thousands marched six miles in early summer heat. People knelt on the cobblestone streets of Nantucket, marched in Morgantown, West Virginia, and crowded around police headquarters in El Paso.
In Washington, Defense Secretary Mark Esper asked state National Guards to send in some of their troops as well, to supplement the presence of local and federal police and the District National Guard. Maryland sent 116 National Guardsmen to the District on Tuesday, according to a spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan.
District Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, said she had not requested any help from outside the city.
At about 4:40 p.m., a line of several dozen officers on camouflage and shields that read "military police" assembled about 20 feet away from the tall, metal fence on the East side of Lafayette Square. Some officers wore N95 masks underneath their face shields and carried batons.
The crowd of hundreds booed and hissed, before breaking out into chants against the president that were heard across the block.
Chase Ingram and Naomi Spates arrived just as the armed officers formed a line, and Ingram lifted Spates by the waist so she could see over the rows of people. It was the first time the pair had attended the protest.
"We couldn't just sit home and do nothing," Spates said.
"After we saw what happened - police shooting and arresting and all that - I didn't want to be the person who just sat at home," Ingram said.
Other protesters had similar motivations.
"The reason I came out today is because that happened yesterday," said Brian Norwood, a 49-year-old white man who lives in Southwest Washington. "I am here to be shot with rubber bullets and tear gas."
Local authorities had spent Tuesday bracing for another wave of protests - not just in Washington, where Barr promised an even stronger show of federal force - but in the Virginia and Maryland suburbs outside the Beltway.
That didn't deter Merianne and Louis de Merode. They had a lot to fear on Friday afternoon as they stood amid a crowd of at least 1,000 north of Lafayette Square.
Merianne, 64, and Louis, 71, had been in near total isolation since the novel coronavirus began spreading several months ago. The Georgetown couple have compromised immune systems and worried - with ample reason - that the virus could be a death sentence for one or both of them.
They hadn't planned to join the teeming crowds in downtown Washington over the last several days. But a few things changed.
They watched the chatter on their neighborhood listserv - affluent Georgetowners decrying the looting that had spread to their neighborhood while saying little about the death of Floyd. And then they saw demonstrators cleared with force before President Trump's photo op yesterday.
"We were not coming down here for four days, because we were frightened it was going to be too compromising for our health," Louis said. "Then things started piling up in our brains and our hearts, and we both decided that we couldn't not do it."
Before nightfall, the situation was tensing up.
Around 4 p.m., protesters were pepper sprayed near the White House.
As Gary Murray, 15, stood in front of the White House looking at a line of armed police guards, he grew angrier and angrier. He had just recovered from getting his wisdom teeth out and had been reading the headlines about the violent protests and this was his first day he could go out.
It took him just a few minutes of being at the protest to get pepper sprayed. He was with his teacher from Dunbar High School in the District.
"This really hurts my heart," he said. "As a teenager, as the future of this country, this hurts my heart."
Also near the White House, police pulled a woman from her car, sparking a few moments of chaos. Elizabeth Tsehai had been cheering and chanting as she drove her BMW alongside protesters on H Street. The stay-at-home mother, who is originally from Ethiopia, said she decided to come out after seeing the violent clashes last night on the news. She said a secret service agent warned her to stop driving, and she replied, "Arrest me, I can't breathe."
Then two white male officers dragged her out of her car, which was still running, and pinned her onto the ground. Protesters swarmed around them as the officers pulled Tsehai behind the black chain link fence, demanding to know why she was being taken away.
"She said 'I'm not resisting,' " said protester Haley Sanders, who watched the interaction and was one of dozens of protesters who gathered around Tsehai's car to protect it, and her belongings, after she was taken away.
Tsehai was pulled behind a fence, which protesters started banging against before police deployed spray sending them fleeing.
As tension built, people of all ages were drawn to protest. Pressed up against the black chain-link fence that materialized around Lafayette Square overnight, three high school boys chanted along with the crowd, "Hey, hey, ho, ho! These racist cops have got to go!"
Parents were moved to bring their children - including one couple who brought a baby. Arwa Shobaki and Nidal Betare brought their 6-year-old daughter. They were watching CNN footage of peaceful protesters getting struck with pepper balls outside the White House on Monday when they decided to bring her.
"Trump is obviously trying to scare people," said mom Arwa Shobaki, 42. "We wanted to show her he put up a fence where people used to walk free."
Three hours before curfew - the second night of curfew beginning at 7 p.m. - hundreds of protesters split off from Lafayette Square and marched up 14th Street NW past armored military vehicles and soldiers in fatigues that lined the road.
City bus drivers cheered and honked as protesters walked by. Drivers leaned out of car windows with raised fists.
One woman shouted, "Thank you!"
The demonstration had brought traffic to a standstill at one point.
A Metro worker in a yellow reflective clapped as the group walked on, past boarded up restaurants and shuttered shops, chanting "Black lives matter" and "No justice, no peace!"
"That's right," she yelled. "This is DC, baby!"
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The Washington Post's Rebecca Tan, John Woodrow Cox, Peter Jamison, Hannah Natanson and Kyle Swenson contributed to this report.
Wes Unseld's calling card during a Hall of Fame career in the National Basketball Association was not a majestic jump shot or a slick crossover dribble or a thunderous dunk - it was the precise, bone-crushing picks he set on opposing defenders, inevitably freeing up one of his teammates for a score. His impact was measured less in points and rebounds than in bruises.
"I don't know of anybody who ever set a meaner screen," former shooting guard Doug Collins of the rival Philadelphia 76ers once said of him.
Unseld, who died June 2 at 74, was the most important figure in the history of the franchise that morphed from the Baltimore Bullets to the Washington Bullets to the Washington Wizards. The cause was complications from pneumonia, the team announced. No other details were immediately available.
Unseld's name is virtually synonymous with the Bullets. As an undersized but legendarily tenacious center, he was the team's foundation during its greatest run of sustained success - the 12-year stretch beginning with his rookie season of 1968-1969, during which the team made 12 straight playoff appearances and won its lone championship, over the Seattle SuperSonics, in 1978.
He played 984 games, the entirety of his NBA career, for the Bullets (the team changed its name to the Wizards in 1997) and remains the franchise's all-time leader in rebounds and was No. 1 in assists until being surpassed by John Wall in 2016. After his playing career ended in 1981, he served the franchise for 23 more years as an executive, broadcaster, head coach and general manager.
Listed officially at 6-foot-7 and 245 pounds, Unseld frequently gave up four to six inches in height to the opposing center, but he nonetheless packed remarkable physical force into that body through raw strength and willpower.
He also possessed a deceptive athleticism, at least as a younger player, occasionally stunning teammates during practice with a unique trick: He would jump to pluck a rebound from the glass and, before touching the floor again, fling an outlet pass downcourt that would hit the backboard at the other end.
Tales of Unseld's toughness and selflessness are legion. His arthritic knees became so bad, he often skipped a week's worth of practices, as well as pregame warmups, because he could tolerate the pain only for the two hours of game time. Once, he suited up just minutes after having 200 cubic centimeters of fluid drained from his left knee.
"The most amazing thing to me is how effective he was with those bad knees," teammate Mitch Kupchak told The Washington Post in 1996. "Any time he stepped on the floor, whether it was for practice or a game, he was in pain. It wasn't comfortable for him, but he saw it as part of his job. He knew his teammates were watching him and if he didn't do it, they might not do it. We always talk about leadership in sports, but you don't designate yourself a leader. You just lead. That's what Wes did."
Unseld averaged just 10.8 points per game during his 13-year career, or 14 points fewer than his contemporary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers.
He was a prolific rebounder, averaging 14 per game for his career and leading the NBA in 1974-1975, but his biggest contributions were invisible on the stats sheets: his pinpoint outlet passes to start the offense back down the court, his suffocating defense against opposing centers such as the Lakers' Wilt Chamberlain and the New York Knicks' Willis Reed and - of course - those devastating picks, in which he used positioning to block a defender from covering a teammate open for a shot.
"People ask me how tough Russell and Chamberlain were," Reed said at Unseld's Hall of Fame induction in 1988. "They don't understand how much this man [Unseld] abused your body."
Asked once about his modest stats, Unseld replied: "It's not my job to look good. It's my job to make other people look good."
Another time, he explained to The Post his approach on the court: "I know that night in and night out the guy I play against will have more physical ability. But I feel like if I go out against a guy and play him 40 or 48 minutes, toe to toe, head to head, he is going to get tired or beat up or bored for two or three minutes. That will be enough to make sure he doesn't win the game for his team."
Westley Sissel Unseld was born in Louisville on March 14, 1946, and was one of nine children, including two who were adopted. His father was a factory worker and a former semiprofessional baseball player and boxer. His mother was a school lunchroom manager.
Unseld led Louisville's Seneca High School to a pair of state championships in the mid-1960s. In the days before most athletes lifted weights, he worked in a steel-supply business as a teenager, perhaps helping account for the strength he displayed as an NBA center.
Coming out of high school, he was recruited by the University of Kentucky's Adolph Rupp, one of the winningest coaches in college basketball, who was being pressured to integrate the school's all-white team. Unseld, who reportedly received racial threats, said he went instead to the University of Louisville in part to be closer to his father, who had suffered a heart attack. He was twice named an all-American at Louisville, graduating in 1968.
The Bullets, then playing in Baltimore, made Unseld the second overall pick of the 1968 NBA draft - behind only Elvin Hayes of the University of Houston. Unseld's arrival changed the trajectory of the franchise almost overnight - the Bullets jumped from sixth place in their division to first place in his rookie season. He was just the second player in history, following Chamberlain, to be named rookie of the year and most valuable player in the same season.
By 1971, the Bullets had made it to the NBA Finals, where they were swept in four games by the Milwaukee Bucks, led by Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson, a future Hall of Fame guard. Afterward, General Manager Gene Shue decided the team needed an elite scorer and traded for the Houston Rockets' Hayes, the player picked one spot ahead of Unseld in the 1968 draft.
It took six more years, and a handful of playoff flameouts before the Unseld-Hayes Bullets finally secured the franchise's first - and still only - NBA title, beating Seattle in seven games in 1978. Before the decisive Game 7, Unseld, 32 at the time, gathered his teammates in the Bullets' locker room.
"This is my 10th year, and this might be the last chance I have to win a championship," he told them, according to The Post. "I just want everyone to know I'll be there for you today. I don't care what it is. You don't have to worry about anything."
After the Bullets prevailed, an emotionally exhausted Unseld said, "What I feel is relief."
After retiring three years later, Unseld immediately shifted to an executive position in the Bullets' front office, one he held until team owner Abe Pollin asked him to become head coach midway through the 1987-1988 season.
Those Bullets teams were short on talent and wins, and Unseld struggled to instill his brand of work ethic and professionalism in younger players. Once, when Unseld thought 7-foot-7 center Manute Bol wasn't giving enough effort in the first half of a game, he confronted Bol in the locker room at halftime, lifted him off the floor and jammed his head through a ceiling tile, The Post reported.
When Unseld stepped down from the coach's job after the 1993-1994 season - with a career mark of 202-345 in just under seven years - he went back to the front office, eventually becoming general manager in 1996. Chicago Bulls superstar Michael Jordan came out of retirement to serve as president of basketball operations, then played his final two seasons for the renamed Wizards, but the team did poorly and failed to make the playoffs for six years in a row. Unseld stepped down in 2003.
"For seven years, he had more than his share of knuckleheads, louts, losers and prima donnas," former Washington Post sports columnist Michael Wilbon once wrote of Unseld's checkered tenure as head coach. "Unseld's biggest misfortune," Wilbon added, "was not being able to coach a Wes Unseld at any position."
Survivors include his wife, the former Connie Martin, and two children, Kimberly and Wes Unseld Jr., who has been an assistant coach with several NBA teams.
His wife operated a private elementary school in a poor Baltimore neighborhood for many years. After retiring from the Wizards, Unseld often mowed the grass, mopped the floors and shot baskets in the gym with students at the school.
"When I retired from basketball, I was interested in what my wife and daughter were doing at the school," he told Washingtonian magazine in 2015. "Every morning, I sit at the front. I make sure the kids [as they come in] make eye contact, say hello, take their hats off. Be ladies and gentlemen. If a kid does get out of hand, they're sent to me. But we have a great group of kids. Do they know who I am? Some Google me and are all surprised. The little ones, they don't know basketball from Dr. Seuss."