While nearly a week of mass protests continue following the death of George Floyd, activists and elected officials alike now cite what they’ve described as President Donald Trump’s increasingly confrontational rhetoric toward protesters and the inappropriate use of physical force by law enforcement officials under his directive which have dominated the American scene.
On Tuesday morning, one day after federal police officers shot cans of tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters gathered in front of the White House, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) joined the chorus of those vocally opposed to Trump and his assertion as the “president of law and order.”
On Twitter, and in a later news broadcast, Bowser drew a stark contrast between Trump’s approach and her attempts to mitigate conflict with a citywide curfew.
“We were very shocked and quite frankly outraged that people who were not violating the curfew and who did not seem to have provoked [the] attack were attacked and moved out by the federal law enforcement officials who were directed to clear the way for the president,” Bowser said during a CNN broadcast.
On June 1, shortly after federal law officials unleashed such force on the protesters, Trump, took a photo in front of nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church with a Bible in hand. These events unfolded just hours after a teleconference where Trump he admonished state governors for not aggressively quelling civil unrest which has grown in intensity across the U.S.
Since footage of Floyd’s on-camera death in police custody has circulated online, activist groups of various ethnicities have organized protests throughout the country and abroad out of frustration with racialized police brutality. However, last weekend, some participants in the District and in other cities, have taken to destroying property and looting businesses.
That aspect of the social unrest has proven polarizing, with people debating the efficacy of protesters engaging in such acts. While supporters have pointed to the loss of human life as the catalyst, Trump has remained consistent in his pledge to dispatch military forces into U.S. cities.
A few days into the protests which in some cases have resulted in violent clashes between vocal citizens and police, some overtaking portions of the District, Bowser administration officials said they too have felt pressured to act harshly and swiftly. On Tuesday, Chief of Staff John Falcicchio confirmed that the White House and other federal officials inquired about taking over the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), saying that Bowser had refused and threatened to issue a legal challenge if an attempt was made.
Falccichio made the announcement just hours after dozens of protesters emerged from hiding in a resident’s home on Swann Street in Northwest on Tuesday after an overnight confrontation with MPD during which police officers allegedly pepper-sprayed and beat hundreds of people violating curfew.
In response to the public outcry to what transpired on Swann Street, D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) pledged accountability while reminding District residents about the significance of statehood in matters of engaging the White House and federal law enforcement.
“I want D.C. residents to know that as the chair of the D.C. Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, my office will be conducting oversight of incidents where individual rights or personal safety may have been violated by law enforcement, keeping in mind that the committee maintains jurisdiction only over local police,” Allen said Tuesday evening. “This specifically includes a review into the activities last night along Swann Street NW.”