Washington D.C. braces for several more days of protests

(Washingtonpost) – The mayor rolled back the curfew to 7 p.m. The president called for protestors to be “dominated.” The brother of George Floyd called for peace. But no one knew if those actions would be enough to stop the fourth night of protests in the nation’s capitol from descending into violence Monday.

Business owners and volunteers were still cleaning up broken glass and graffiti across the city Monday afternoon when demonstrators returned to Lafayette Square, in front of The White House. U.S. Park Police and Secret Service officers in riot gear formed a line in front of them. Nearby, a bathroom was still charred from being engulfed in fire Sunday night.

“It’s been getting to a boiling point,” said 29-year-old Andrew Green, who stood a few rows from the officers. “It’s going to explode.”

The city’s efforts to ensure that explosions – figurative and literal – would be avoided were under intense scrutiny Monday, after multiple nights of peaceful protests devolved into severe property damage and extensive looting of businesses, some of which D.C. Police appeared to make no effort to stop.

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) spent much of Monday assuring reporters and business owners that she and Police Chief Peter Newsham were “very focused on maintaining public order.”

She moved the city’s curfew from 11 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday evening, with similar restrictions beginning again Tuesday night. Metro planned to end bus and rail service early.

“We applaud the American spirit of protest,” Bowser said. “However, we will not allow the continued destruction of our hometown.”

Meanwhile, President Trump was promising a far harsher response to the demonstrators in his front yard: “If you don’t dominate your city and your state, they are going to walk away with you,” Trump said on a call with the nation’s governors, a recording of which was obtained by The Washington Post. “We are going to do it in Washington. In D.C., we are going to do something people haven’t seen before.”

The extent that federal reinforcements that will play in the response to protestors Monday night remained unclear. Bowser scehduled a press conference to lay out the city’s plans.
Attorney General William P. Barr has directed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to send anti-riot teams to D.C. and Miami as part of the federal government’s escalating response to the civil unrest across the country, a senior Justice Department official said.

The official said all FBI field offices are also setting up command posts and will work with local law enforcement on possibly bringing federal charges against those who cross state lines to riot. As local police make arrests, the official said, the FBI will interview those in custody and assess whether any federal crimes have been committed.

The Justice Department has become keenly focused on the violence in the District. On Sunday night, Barr sent the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team to assist local police. A Special Operations Response Team from the Bureau of Prisons was present in Miami over the weekend, and one will now be active in the District, the official said.

Largely peaceful protests Sunday over the killing of Floyd devolved into rioting and looting after dark, leaving smashed windows, overturned vehicles and the smoldering remains of fires across the city. District officials had imposed a curfew from 11 p.m. Sunday to 6 a.m. Monday, but some demonstrators ignored it.