Multiple fires and clouds of tear gas engulfed the heart of America's capital, Washington D.C., on Monday night, as a peaceful rally for racial equality escalated into riots with baton-wielding police units moving to disperse screaming crowds just a few hundred feet away from the White House
WASHINGTON (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 01st June, 2020) Multiple fires and clouds of tear gas engulfed the heart of America's capital, Washington D.C., on Monday night, as a peaceful rally for racial equality escalated into riots with baton-wielding police units moving to disperse screaming crowds just a few hundred feet away from the White House.
At the edge of Lafayette Square, right across from the Presidential residence, thousands of protesters of all races, ages and genders chanted "No justice, no peace," "Black lives matter" and "Don't shoot." They raised their hands and knelt in tribute to George Floyd, an unarmed African American man who died last week in the custody of Minneapolis police.
"We are tired of socio-economic oppression the black people and people of color have been going through in this country. We are doing everything that we can peacefully right now to make sure that the President hears our message," an African American woman told Sputnik.
She added that all they wanted was equality, not extra rights.
"We want to be seen equal in the eyes of America we are out here because we are tired, we are yelling because we are tired," she said.
From behind a peaceful majority, radicals threw different objects, mostly plastic bottles of water and firecrackers, at a human chain of security forces separated from the crowd by metal barriers and several dozen yards of a grass lawn. The officers of different agencies - from the Secret Service to Park and Military Police - responded occasionally with stun grenades and tear gas, but would hold ground for several hours.
The offensive began when the radicalized minority of the rally lit a huge fire on H street adjacent to Lafayette square and torched a nearby stone building of a public restroom. As they danced jubilantly around the fire, the police advanced to scatter the crowd.
Two Russian reporters covering the event were hit by what seemed to be sponge bullets with foam tips that left visible bruises. Many protesters suffered from the effects of tear gas. Volunteer medics treated them on the spot, pouring milk and vinegar-based liquids on their faces to mitigate the discomfort. Eyewitnesses say that the police officers refrained from beating people with batons.
Disturbances spread to the nearby streets, where numerous windows were smashed, and several buildings and cars were torched. Rioters crushed a Mercedes sedan with wooden sticks and then turned the pricey vehicle over.
"We are tired of this shit. Police brutality over and over again... If I die by the police, burn America down... They say George Floyd didn't want it. How do they know? Did he write it down somewhere?" two African-Americans present at the scene in similar balaclavas and assault vests told Sputnik.
It was the third consecutive night of the riots in Washington, and so far the fiercest since the capital city joined the nationwide protest against Floyd's death following his arrest by four officers in Minneapolis. A video that went viral shows a white policeman, Derek Chauvin, pinning Floyd to the ground with his knee on his neck for nearly eight minutes. Floyd begged for air until becoming unresponsive. The man died at a local hospital shortly after.
Ahead of the protests, Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered a citywide curfew until Monday morning and activated the DC National Guard to support the Metropolitan Police Department.