DC mayor urges calm after protests nearby the White House occur for second consecutive night

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said Sunday that protesters have the right to exercise the First Amendment but should not “destroy our city” after the nation’s capital experienced its second consecutive night of protests as well as some looting Saturday night.

“We’re sending a very clear message to people that they have a right to exercise their First Amendment rights, but not to destroy our city,” Bowser said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We saw a level of just destruction and mayhem among some that was maddening.”

The DC Fire Department extinguished two vehicle fires in the area north of the White House Saturday night, as well as several small fires in the downtown area. Some protesters also put up graffiti on some buildings.

DC Chief of Police Peter Newsham said Sunday that the Metropolitan Police Department had arrested 17 people Saturday night and that 11 MPD officers were injured during the protests. None of the officers sustained life-threatening injuries, though one officer is undergoing surgery for multiple compound fractures to his leg after a protester threw a rock at him.

Newsham said that of the 17 people arrested, eight either live in DC or have some ties to the area.

He said police expect to make more arrests, as the department is asking private businesses to review their security footage, and will ask the DC community to help identify those who were damaging property or hurting people.

More than 60 US Secret Service personnel were injured from Friday night through Sunday morning near the White House, according to a statement from the Secret Service.

Bowser urged President Donald Trump to help “calm the nation” and to stop sending “divisive tweets that are meant to harken back to the segregationist past of our country.”

On Saturday, Trump wrongly accused Bowser in a tweet of not allowing the DC Metropolitan Police Department to help the Secret Service keep control of the situation with protesters in Lafayette Square on Friday night. That claim was later refuted by the US Secret Service who confirmed in a statement that the DC police department and US Park police were on the scene.

Bowser responded to Trump on Twitter Saturday, saying that the DC police department, “will always protect DC and all who are in it whether I agree with them (such as those exercising their First Amendment Right) or those I don’t (namely, @realdonaldtrump).”

The DC mayor said while Trump “hides behind his fence afraid/alone,” she stands with people “peacefully exercising their First Amendment Right after the murder” of Floyd and “hundreds of years of institutional racism.”

Trump also tweeted that protesters “would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen,” if they breached the fence outside the White House.

In a press conference Saturday, Bowser noted how Trump’s reference to the “ominous dogs” was “no subtle reminder” of segregationists who would attack African Americans with dogs.

Bowser said Sunday that the city is working on cleaning up after protests and is coordinating with law enforcement “to ensure calm in our city.”

Skirmishes between groups of protesters and law enforcement flared Saturday evening nearby Trump’s residence for the second consecutive night as tensions played out over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis who was pinned down by police.

Some protesters continued to gather in downtown Washington, DC, at Lafayette Square, which is across from the White House, into Saturday evening, but additional protesters were not being allowed in by police.

At times there were attempts by some protesters to enter the park. They were met with pepper spray or other mechanisms pushing them back.

Separately, a group marched and then rallied at the Lincoln Memorial. At one point onlookers reported pepper spray being used. The area around the memorial was then cleared.

Law enforcement’s aim was to erect a large space between the protesters and the White House. Authorities wanted to prevent a large number of protesters from gathering at the barriers which are permanently set up in front of the White House.

Newsham called the behavior of police “incredibly responsible, heroic, in many instances,” and said he doesn’t expect Sunday night to be “a repeat of last night.”

But safety concerns lingered for White House staff into Sunday.

White House executive office staff received an email urging them to stay away from the White House complex, if possible, due to “ongoing demonstrations.”

“Due to ongoing demonstrations, please avoid coming to the White House Complex today if at all possible,” the email reads, in part. “The White House currently maintains an elevated security posture.”

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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