As night fell in D.C., many of the thousands of protesters who have come to the White House for days on end described the tenor on Tuesday as more subdued than in the recent days.
While some handed out ear plugs in anticipation of flash-bangs being fired by police and others urged protesters to write the number of legal help lines on their arms “in case they get arrested,” the scene remained far less tense than it was over the weekend, several said.
“Tonight is a lot more peaceful,” said Jonathon Williams, a 23-year-old Washingtonian who has taken part in previous protests. “Yesterday we were just dealing with the initial shock of the curfew being put in place.”
Two hours after the 7 p.m. curfew started on Tuesday there was virtually no change in the police posture. A major factor in the less confrontational tone was likely a large fence that had been installed around Lafayette Square — a new layer of fencing that put a much larger buffer between the police and the protesters.
Another potential dynamic, Williams speculated, was the much larger gathering itself. It brought with it a different crowd, he said, that may have been reacting as much to Trump than to police force and Floyd. Williams said the differences were evident in the chants. “Defund the police,” was heard less on Tuesday. “This is what democracy looks like,” was heard far more.
“The message is getting watered down,” Williams said.
Still, Williams said he was grateful to see the larger crowd the day after it was cleared.
“The president showed a lot of force and he wanted to prove that you can crush people,” Williams said. “But I think the crowd that came out proved that’s not true.”
Willie Addy, a 28-year-old commercial real estate professional from Washington D.C., attended his first George Floyd protest Tuesday. He said he decided to come after witnessing what unfolded the previous night.
“Watching peaceful protesters being moved so the president could take a photo opp and a picture literally of a Bible backwards, it just made me outraged,” said Addy, who is black. “I had to be out here just for that.
“He didn’t even have the decency to even mention George Floyd or his family at all.”
Crowd began booing and throwing things at a protester tearing down the 16th St. sign. Followed up by chanting briefly: “Peaceful protest! Peaceful protest!” pic.twitter.com/zAbxOnkp5g
— Michelle R. Martinelli (@MMartinelli4) June 2, 2020
Throughout the day, protesters returned to the area around the White House where on Monday law enforcement used projectiles, shields and horses to clear out a group of peaceful demonstrators to make way for President Donald Trump’s visit to a nearby church, a decision that has drawn criticism from religious leaders and lawmakers from both parties. There, he stood for a few moments, holding the Bible up for photos.