DC Residents Take to the Streets to Demand End of Police State

Protesters have continued to pour onto the streets of Washington, D.C., night after night, despite the city’s attempt to suppress protest through the deployment of the National Guard and the imposition of nightly curfews.

The righteous rage and pain felt in response to the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is palpable throughout the streets of this city, as many Black, Indigenous and Latinx people are already dying at large numbers from the lack of resources to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and the everyday forms of systematic abuse and slaughter.

In response to the growing protests, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser activated the National Guard and set curfews beginning on Saturday which extended through Wednesday. Police Chief Peter Newsham has said that those who break curfew will be arrested through the use of the city’s CCTV system, even going so far as to ask business owners to turn over their camera footage and offering rewards for information that leads to arrests. These acts stifle the right to peaceful protest and could turn people against one another while the U.S. is in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

On Monday, Trump referred to those peacefully protesting as “rioters” and “criminals” and threatened to activate the military. The D.C. and federal government’s violent overreaction to protests has included the use of multiple law enforcement agencies and the military. On Monday night, at the U Street District in Northwest Washington, D.C., I witnessed protesters repeatedly being greatly outnumbered by police and being tear gassed, shot at and terrorized throughout the night. A small group of approximately 15-20 people kneeled and sat on a small neighborhood street in the U District and were quickly swarmed by at least 50 Metropolitan Police Department officers. A bus full of military police were brought in, but then left.

The scene on Tuesday night was different, however: It appears that the curfews have only further enraged D.C. residents rather than persuading them. On Tuesday night, as I moved through Lafayette Square and surrounding areas, I witnessed protesters greatly outnumbering law enforcement as they peacefully demonstrated and marched late into the night, demanding change to the racist system that has been killing many since the creation of the U.S. This photo essay offers a glimpse of both the protest energy and the police presence over the past few days.

Throughout the protests, people have been tagging buildings with political messages and crucial questions about the rights of Black people. This photo from May 30, 2020, documents just one of them: “Why do we have to keep telling you Black lives matter?”
Two Secret Service agents roam the streets of Washington, D.C., on May 30, 2020.
The phrase “Capitalism is murder” appears on a Wells Fargo building on May 30, 2020. This phrase is often used to remind viewers that capitalism is killing Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color. Wells Fargo, for example, funds private prisons, Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers, pipelines on Indigenous lands, and has a history of giving predatory loans.
This protester has a perfect view of the retaliation from law enforcement in Lafayette Square, on May 30, 2020. Throughout the night, police pelted the crowd with tear gas and at times, mace, leaving many of us in physical pain and endangering our lives. As anger grew in response to this abuse, the crowd became louder, expressing demands for the end of the police state.
This photo from May 30, 2020, depicts one of the many heavily armed and militarized law enforcement agents occupying Lafayette Square near the White House — an American icon that was built by stolen people on stolen Piscataway land. Much of the mainstream news coverage has painted protesters as rioters and thieves, but the only violence I’ve personally witnessed during the protests was on the part of the state.
Law enforcement agents and the military were out in full force on June 1, 2020, shooting bean bags and flash-bangs, assaulting and using tear gas against peaceful protesters. This photo shows Department of Homeland Security officers “protecting” a D.C. Street.
Members of the U.S. military occupy an intersection near the White House on June 2, 2020. The Secret Service has indefinitely blocked off many of the roads in the area with the help of other agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the military.
The now worldwide protests against the racially motivated murder of George Floyd have sparked larger conversations of institutional oppression. This sign from June 2, 2020, reads, “All Black suffering is due to white systems.”
Department of Homeland Security police block an intersection near Lafayette Square on June 2, 2020.
Military vehicles, helicopters and police are being used to deter protests and stifle the righteous rage of Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color calling for systemic change.