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Protesters Set Fire To Vehicles, Buildings Near White House


All right. In Washington D.C., there was a third night of clashes, just a few steps from the White House. And NPR's Joseph Shapiro was there. Hey, Joe.


KING: What was the mood like at this protest out in front of the White House yesterday?

SHAPIRO: For most of the day, the mood was somber and serious. People had come to make a statement. They wanted to be counted, like this woman, Madeline Hornbuckle. She talked about her mixed emotions at the protest.

MADELINE HORNBUCKLE: Part of the day, you're mad. You're mad at everything that's going on. And the other part, you're sad because it's - the reason why you're here, honestly. You're thinking about why you're here, what you're fighting for, you're hearing what people are yelling for. And it's ultimately for justice and peace. And why do we have to fight for that? We should already have it.

SHAPIRO: And she talked about how things have been tense, too. There was this heavy police presence. There was a long line of police, Secret Service and Park Police around Lafayette Square, and some were on horseback. They kept the protesters far from the White House fence. And remember - President Trump had threatened the people protesting. He boasted that the Secret Service had vicious dogs. And the mayor of Washington, D.C., Muriel Bowser, said his comments reminded her of the police dogs that were turned on civil rights protesters in the South.

KING: So you're there yesterday, and it is peaceful, and then something changes - right? - and it sort of sets people off.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. Yeah, it's - the city's 11:00 p.m. curfew approaches, and things just changed. It was just like some invisible switch got turned on, and the protest went from peaceful to chaotic. In Lafayette Square, somebody set a fire in a public restroom. And some people threw water bottles and flares and fireworks at the police, and the police fired concussion grenades and tear gas. In neighborhoods, by the way, around the city, people smashed the windows of stores and coffee shops and banks and office buildings.

KING: How did the people out there demonstrating feel about the folks who got violent?

SHAPIRO: Yeah. Well, I was interviewing this woman, Cheeks Dennis, who was upset about the destruction. And we're talking - we're standing across the street from the headquarters of the AFL-CIO, the large federation of unions. And as she's talking, people were trying to break the windows there.

CHEEKS DENNIS: We're not violent, all right? We are out here making a statement, OK? So we're not out here trying to destroy anything. I don't know what the hell - what is that over there? I don't know what's going on over there. But - oh, my gosh.

SHAPIRO: So someone had started a fire, and it burned in the lobby of the AFL-CIO for several minutes. And there was another fire around the corner in the basement of the historic St. John's Episcopal Church. Every president since James Madison has attended church there. But that fire was put out before it caused too much damage to that historic church.

KING: Some good news. Joe Shapiro, thanks for that.

SHAPIRO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joseph Shapiro is a NPR News Investigations correspondent.
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