WASHINGTON — Protesters on Saturday converged at the White House and pushed security barricades farther down Pennsylvania Avenue as nationwide demonstrations over George Floyd’s death reached President Donald Trump’s doorstep for the second consecutive day.
At the White House Saturday, protesters amid the large crowd could be seen standing on top of Secret Service vehicles and a security booth next to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Officers used pepper spray against the demonstrators and many officers could be seen equipping gas masks.
Some in the crowd also ripped away the bike rack barriers that separate 17th Street from the Pennsylvania Avenue Plaza. Other demonstrators were seen standing face to face with a phalanx of Secret Service on the Plaza.
Just before 6 p.m. ET, police warned protesters to clear the street and pushed them to do as much. After 7 p.m., protesters moved to the opposite side of Lafayette Park, chanting and yelling at Secret Service and Park Police. Officers lined up within the park behind barricades and park chain fencing. They have zip-tied the barricades together are are used pepper spray to keep protesters back.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., took part in the demonstration, as she posted to Twitter: “People are in pain.”
“We must listen,” she continued.
Days after protests first began, Derek Chauvin, the since-fired officer who detained Floyd, a black man, and was seen on videotape holding his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as he begged for mercy, was arrested and charged Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other officers were also involved in Floyd’s detainment.
Following intense protests Friday night, Trump warned that had those demonstrators breached the fence surrounding White House, they were likely to be met “by “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons.”
“Big crowd, professionally organized, but nobody came close to breaching the fence. If they had they would….have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen. That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least,” Trump tweeted Saturday morning, additionally praising the Secret Service after thousands gathered at the complex Friday.
One woman was taken into custody at that demonstration after climbing over a barrier.
Trump also tweeted that Saturday would be “MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE,” though what he meant was unclear. The president had blamed violent outbreaks at some protests on “Radical Left” extremists, as did Attorney General William Barr.
“I stand before you as a friend and ally to every American seeking justice and peace,” Trump told reporters Saturday. “And I stand before you in firm opposition to anyone exploiting this tragedy to loot, rob, attack and menace. Healing, not hatred, justice, not chaos are the mission at hand.”
A law enforcement source told NBC News that “several dozen” Secret Service personnel sustained injuries during Friday’s protests in Washington, DC. Some were transported to hospitals with non-life threatening injuries.
The president was in Florida on Saturday afternoon to witness a SpaceX rocket launch. Air Force One took off just after 6 p.m. on the East Coast and landed at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland around 8 p.m.
Garrett Haake reported from Washington, D.C., and Allan Smith reported from New York.
Minyvonne Burke and Nicole Acevedo contributed.