WASHINGTON (CN) — Former Democratic presidential candidate and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren joined thousands of peaceful demonstrators descending on the White House Tuesday evening as curfew approached in the nation’s capital.
As the sun went down, the crowd did not disperse but split, with about a thousand remaining outside the White House, while hundreds others marched past military vehicles and law enforcement personnel toward the U.S. Capitol.
Warren, walking with her husband, Bruce Mann, and her golden retriever, Bailey, told reporters just before 7 p.m. that she had an “obligation to bear witness to this moment,” as crowds held out between police perimeters blocking off the White House and surrounding streets.
“I want to see us attack racism head on everywhere,” Warren said. “We need as a country to have a serious heartfelt conversation about what is wrong, what has been wrong now for centuries and what we can do to change it.”
Police under federal command tear gassed demonstrators on Monday so President Donald Trump could cross a now fenced-off park to pose with a Bible at a nearby church.
The senator criticized Trump for the use of violence against citizens exercising their First Amendment rights, saying the people were protesting peacefully.
“He wanted a photo op of Americans who disagreed with him being scattered, violence pushed upon them,” Warren said. “That’s the photo op he wanted. That is wrong.”
Tuesday marked the fifth day of consecutive protests in Washington, with the largest crowd so far, over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
Thousands gathered outside Lafayette Square, a symbolic area for political rallies located across the street from the White House and fenced off Tuesday, kneeling in the street and chanting for National Guard troops behind the barrier to “Take a knee.”
When individuals rattled the fence the crowd called on them to stop, and also pulled down people who climbed lamp posts.
The crowd stretched for blocks in downtown Washington, D.C., with scattered makeshift stations providing free water bottles, snacks and hand sanitizer for demonstrators. Most people in the crowd wore masks, a majority of them surgical or N95, but some donned full face gas masks. Senior citizens and children were among those concentrated across from the White House, including a baby girl on her mother’s shoulders.
The historic St. John’s Church, where Trump held his photo op with staff yesterday, served as the backdrop for the protest as the crowd chanted “I can’t breathe,” and “Hands up, don’t shoot.”
With no mention of whether he planned to employ further aggressive police force, Attorney General William Barr praised law enforcement in a statement Tuesday.
“Last night was a more peaceful night in the District of Columbia. Working together, federal and local law enforcement made significant progress in restoring order to the nation’s capital,” Barr said.
The sound of drilling punctuated the final hours before sunset Tuesday, as restaurants, retail stores and offices boarded up windows out of concern the protests would turn violent. But as the night dragged on and some demonstrators moved into neighborhoods miles from the White House, the peace that marked daytime demonstrations held out past midnight.
Of the 250 people arrested for curfew violations Monday night, 237 were issued citations and released. D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said in a statement Tuesday that no resident should be subject to use of force for any nonviolent offense, including curfew violations.
The protests, Racine said, offer an opportunity to model calm and respectful police-civilian interactions.
“What is more, our work here and nationwide cannot end with better police treatment towards protesters. We need new, community-based policing norms that treat all people better,” Racine said. “We must make a true effort to finally reckon with America’s original sin.”