Washington had another day of mass protests on Sunday, as more than 1,000 people gathered in Lafayette Square to chant, raise their fists, and kneel in a peaceful demonstration that began in front of the White House. At 11 p.m., as a curfew implemented by Mayor Muriel Bowser began, police pushed demonstrators back to the streets and a majority of the protesters cleared out.
Some of those who remained spread out across the downtown area, smashing windows, setting fires, and scrawling graffiti. Police met them with pepper bullets and tear gas, and protesters repeatedly pushed back, trying to break through the barricades around the White House.
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, said nothing. The White House had gone dark, further proving to some of the protesters that the president was unwilling and unable to listen to the black community’s pain and take on a leadership role during a moment of crisis. The New York Times reported on Sunday that Trump had been whisked away to an underground bunker on Friday night, when the protesters had gathered around the White House gates. The bunker had previously been used for potential terror attacks. The next morning, Trump claimed that he had never felt worried about his safety.
According to the Times, several of his advisers had recommended that Trump address a grieving and worried nation, but others disagreed, concerned about him making things worse with any missteps in the speech.
Around 7 p.m., the president tweeted, “LAW & ORDER!” Before then, he had complained about the insufficient number of arrests and “LONG TERM jail sentences” and criticized city and state leaders for not calling in the National Guard. He retweeted a number of his own tweets blasting the news media as the enemy of the people and promising to have antifa designated a terrorist organization. (Under law, only foreign groups can be designated as terrorist groups. Also, antifa is at most a movement, not an organization with any structure.) But by 11 p.m., he had gone silent. In the morning, when the city was once again quiet, he began tweeting out quotes from Fox and Friends, attacks on Joe Biden, and boasts about his poll numbers.
Over the weekend, the protests over the death of George Floyd spread globally, with demonstrations in London, Berlin, and Toronto. There have been demonstrations in at least 75 cities in the past few days.
For more of Slate’s coverage of George Floyd’s death and the protests nationwide, listen to What Next.