A Weekend of Protests in DC
As a white male, I fully recognize that I am not anywhere close to the perfect voice to hear from regarding the Black Lives Matter protests against racism and police brutality. That being said, allies outside of the black community need to come together to support this movement as well. And as a DC resident, I witnessed what will hopefully become a large part of our country’s history soon here in the nation’s capital.
I also want to make one thing clear and move on. Rioters are not the story here. While incidents of property destruction and fires occurred as shown on the news, the rioters are not the real protestors. Those people do not represent the real movement. All of the protests and events that I personally witnessed over the weekend were peaceful, and I could not have felt safer. So, let’s forget the rioters and get to the heart of the matter here.
Early Friday evening I went out towards the protests by Lafayette Square. I live only 10 main blocks up 16th St NW from the square. Lafayette Square sits just on the north side of the White House and is a regular location of daily protests for all causes. It naturally became a ground zero of sorts in DC for the Black Lives Matter protests when they began over a week ago. The square was eventually fenced in as a further buffer, and this is the location where President Trump would have protestors tear gassed so he could be flanked by layers of protectors for an infamous photo op outside St. John’s Episcopal Church, known as the Church of the Presidents. The move was roundly criticized, to include disbelief from the church’s Bishop Budde.
As I turned onto 16th St from home, I was met by an endless line of citizens stretching the entire 10 blocks and more. Together everyone joined in an 8-minute-46-seconds vigil in remembrance of George Floyd. Most knelt, many raised their right fist in the air, passing cars honked their horns in support, and the many churches that line the street rang their bells. The scene was one of the most moving that I have seen.
At the end of 16th St by the fenced in square, there was another awe-inspiring scene. A giant yellow Black Lives Matter mural had been painted on the street, and DC Mayor Muriel Bowser officially named the section Black Lives Matter Plaza right where Trump had staged his ill-advised public relations stunt (to label it nicely). That Friday night, speeches were made and music played. The only sign of violence came from the sky as a drenching downpour and flashing lightning soon tried to damper protestors’ spirits to no avail.
Saturday was the largest planned day of protests with marches, demonstrations, and events throughout the city. That evening I went back to Black Lives Matter Plaza. This time I carried a sign that read “Marine Vet Against Police Violence. Black Lives Matter”. As a four-year Marine Corps veteran, I felt this was the best way that I could show my support for the cause. Remember, white male. As someone who fought for our country, I felt this amplified my voice against the violence and brutality from others who are supposed to be protectors of society. I fought for and support the right of these protests, to include kneeling during the national anthem.
The Black Lives Matter Plaza centerpiece for the DC protests was iconic. The joy and pride in the black lives there all weekend was amazing when considering the tragedies that had brought everyone there. And the city’s clear rebuke in the backyard of President Trump is special. It is truly a historical location now and hopefully the future. And hopefully for all of us, the words of the past weeks turn into real actions of change.