Pro-Trump protesters who had gathered in Washington Saturday started roaming the streets in the evening, apparently determined to get into fights with counterprotesters. The most aggressive appeared to be members of the Proud Boys, the far-right chauvinist organization, who got into a lot of fights throughout the night. And they also committed several acts of vandalism. One group that appeared to be mostly made up of Proud Boys tore down a Black Lives Matter sign from the Asbury United Methodist Church, the oldest Black church in the city that is still on its original site.
Video posted on social media shows the group tearing down the sign from the church and then setting it on fire. As one member of the group poured flammable liquid onto the fire, many around him started cheering and chanting, “Fuck antifa!” A few made the “OK” hand gesture that has been associated with white supremacy. Protesters also tore down other Black Lives Matter signs across Washington.
On Sunday, the pastor of the church released a statement expressing shock at what took place Saturday night. “Last night demonstrators who were part of the MAGA gatherings tore down our Black Lives Matter sign and literally burned it in the street,” said the Rev. Ianther M. Mills of Asbury Methodist Church. “It pained me especially to see our name, Asbury, in flames. For me it was reminiscent of cross burnings.” Mills added that the church would “move forward, undaunted in our assurance that Black Lives Matter and we are obligated to shout the truth without ceasing.” But she did say she was “alarmed” that the type of violence that was on display Saturday night was not being “denounced at the highest levels.” She also pointed out that “if this was a marauding group of men of color going through the city, and destroying property, they would have been followed and arrested.”*
Correction, Dec. 13, 2020: This post originally misgendered the Rev. Ianther M. Mills.