D.C., Monday, June 1

A firsthand account of protests outside the White House against the police murder of George Floyd.


I was at the White House protests for the fourth night in a row today. I was there from about 5:15 p.m. to 6:50 p.m., leaving before the newly imposed 7 p.m. curfew. It was shocking. I have been to many protests, including many where the police become aggressive. I haven’t seen what I saw today.

For about an hour, I was near the far northeast corner of Lafayette Park with a cluster of 50–100 protesters, honestly quite lackluster in its chanting. We were a small detachment from the main crowd of 1,000 or so that was more centrally lined up with the White House. There was a barricade the police had erected, and a huge, huge number of police behind it, maybe 200, fully armed riot cops.

There was no water bottle throwing, which has been the maximum of protester “violence” during these protests, not even particularly aggressive chanting or taunting. Suddenly, the cops began hurdling over their own barricade and slowly advancing towards people, forming a new line. In the process, they violently batoned two 30–40-year-old white men, who started bleeding profusely, and maced a younger man.

The large crowd started migrating towards us, but the police took an intersection and maintained a line. Behind the barricade, hundreds and hundreds more police in full riot gear and mounted police, started rushing, to the point where maybe 500 of them were behind the barricade. Then the police charged us, batoning, trampling, shooting rubber bullets or pepper spray, macing people, throwing tear gas, flash bangs. People actively running away, hands up. It was extremely military-like.

Protesters regrouped here and there, but the flash bangs and tear gas wouldn’t stop. One protester asked a D.C. cop how to make a complaint and the cop asked, “Which agency were they?” It was surreal. There were children. This was all long before curfew. Clearly, there were a few leftists, many young people of color who didn’t seem politically affiliated, some racial justice organizers, some clergy directly assisting with water, and plenty of liberals. I hope these folks were all radicalized by the experience. Now there are drones and low-flying (like, 100 feet off the ground) helicopters, protesters being kettled in multiple places, and protesters smashing windows at the Marble Palace. (This stuff is indiscriminate, but of course interesting and relevant.) You’ve seen the rest. The military is occupying D.C., and people are calling for the resignation of the mayor and council members.

J. is an activist in Metro DC DSA and is a member of DSA's Bread & Roses caucus.