Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser and District officials on Monday imposed a 7 p.m curfew after protests turned violent over the weekend, with monuments vandalized and historic buildings set ablaze.
Bowser, speaking at a press conference Monday alongside D.C. public safety and health officials, condemned the “destruction” of the capital city.
“I want to be very clear about something as the nation’s capital. We are frequent hosts to First Amendment demonstrations, and we applaud the American spirit of protest and especially protest to their federal government,” she said. “However, we do not, and we will not, allow the destruction of our hometown, by people who are coming here to protest or by D.C. residents.”
Bowser said she and ocal officials “certainly empathize with the righteous cause that people are here protesting.”
“Every single American should be outraged by the murder of George Floyd, however, smashed windows and looting are becoming a bigger story than the broken systems that got us here,” she said.
Bowser imposed a 7 p.m. curfew for Monday and Tuesday, noting that essential personnel and members of the media are exempt.
“We want your voices to be heard, but we also want to protect the safety of everyone in our city,” Bowser said. “Tonight’s curfew will begin at 7 p.m. and it will run for two days.”
Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham offered a stark warning to those who do not abide by the curfew.
“If you are not a member of the media or have an essential function, local police and federal police will take you into custody,” Newsham said. “That is a warning. And I am hopeful that warning will be shared by everyone who is listening.”
Newsham went on to detail the unrest in the city Sunday night—noting that there was “destruction of property and unnecessary injury to people in our city,” including “rioting, damage and looting.”
The decision comes after Bowser imposed an 11 p.m. curfew Sunday night, which she acknowledged was too late.
“We’re going to give [law enforcement] the maximum amount of time and tools that they need,” Bowser said Monday.
Riots escalated in Washington, D.C., and across the country Sunday night in response to Minneapolis man George Floyd’s death in police custody last week.
U.S. Marshals and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents were deployed into the streets of D.C. to help beef up security alongside local police, Secret Service and Homeland Security agents at the direction of the Justice Department.
Additionally, the entire Washington, D.C. National Guard was being called in to help with the response to protests outside the White House and elsewhere in the nation’s capital, according to two Defense Department officials.
As authorities clashed with demonstrators for the third straight night, the parish house connected to the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church across the street from the White House was set on fire late Sunday. The basement, which was also torched, is used for child care during church services and had recently undergone renovations.
The church says every president beginning with James Madison, “until the present,” has attended a service at the church, giving it the nickname, “the church of presidents.”
Bowser, on Monday, said she walked through St. John’s on Monday, and was “quite angry at the vandalism and arson there.” Bowser acknowledged that the fire was “intentionally set” and said “that type of destruction is intolerable.”
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) building was also set ablaze near the White House. The AFL-CIO is the nation’s largest pro-union group.
The D.C. demonstration Sunday was one of several around the country responding to the death of Floyd.
That day, an employee at a Minneapolis grocery store called police and accused Floyd of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. Floyd, who is black, was then arrested and handcuffed by Officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, and pushed to the ground. Video shows Chauvin with his knee pressed to the back of Floyd’s neck as he gasped for air.
Floyd, 46, died in police custody Monday night.
Chauvin and three other officers were fired Tuesday in connection with Floyd’s death. Chauvin was charged Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter in Minnesota.
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