WASHINGTON (AP) — Hundreds of people gathered outside the White House late Friday to protest the police killing of a black man in Minneapolis — and President Donald Trump’s response.
Protesters hurled pieces of bricks, bottles and other objects at Secret Service and U.S. Park Police officers who were in riot gear behind barricades around the White House. Protesters at times kicked and punched officers and wrestled over the barricades.
The crowd of hundreds chanted “No justice, no peace” and “Say his name: George Floyd.” A white police officer in Minneapolis killed Floyd on Monday by pressing a knee into his neck while taking him into custody, leading to a national uproar. Protests exploded in dozens of cities around the nation Friday night.
As some in the crowd grew more aggressive, police deployed pepper spray to keep them back and maintain a perimeter of officers around the White House. Fellow demonstrators came to the aid of protesters who were sprayed, their eyes red and puffy, offering bottles of milk and water to splash on their faces.
By the end of the night, the protesters had stolen about 15 barricades and left police to form a line of officers holding riot shields to keep back the swelling crowd. At one point, the protesters were able to gain control of an officer’s shield and set it ablaze before trying to toss it back at the line of officers. Police used a smoke device to quickly stop them.
The protest went on for hours before police declared the gathering “unlawful” and ordered everyone to leave Lafayette Square, a seven-acre public park located directly north of the White House. Dozens of officers pushed forward with their shields and fired off streams of pepper spray at protesters.
“Out of the park or you will be sprayed,” an officer shouted at the crowd.
As the officers continued to push forward through the park, some protesters broke the bricks from the pavement and hurled chunks at the officers. Police did not immediately provide any information about arrests.
On Thursday, as violence broke out in Minneapolis, Trump tweeted, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Trump later said his comments had been misconstrued. “Frankly it means when there’s looting, people get shot and they die,” he said.
The protesters in Washington Friday night chanted curses at Trump, who was in the White House.
Earlier Friday, protesters marched toward the White House after beginning a demonstration several blocks away. At one point, a man was carried off by police into the nearby U.S. Treasury Department Annex building. The crowd swarmed around the officers, shouting, “Let him go.”
District resident Abe Neri said of Floyd, “I just feel like he’s just one of many names that we’ve had to create hashtags and T-shirts and campaigns for and I feel like nothing has changed. … And so that’s why I’m out here. Yeah, when you say nothing you’re taking the side of the oppressor.”
AP video journalist Nathan Ellgren contributed to this report.