Supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump will descend on the District yet again this week. Both Mayor Muriel Bowser and Black Lives Matter DC are asking residents to avoid their rallies and actions scheduled for Wednesday, when Congress is expected to declare President-elect Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election.
The last time Trump supporters gathered downtown demonstrations devolved into chaos and violence. Four people were stabbed amid confrontations between Trump supporters and counterprotesters. Members affiliated with the hate group the Proud Boys stole a Black Lives Matter banner from the Black historic church Asbury United Methodist Church just to burn it. The Metropolitan Police Department has been investigating that incident, along with destruction of property at three other churches, as possible hate crimes.
At a press conference Monday, MPD Chief Robert Contee said that investigation is ongoing. The Downtown Cluster of Congregations, which represents historic Black churches in downtown D.C., tells NBC4 that Asbury United Methodist Church is asking MPD for special detail this week.
In a statement issued Sunday, Bowser assured the public that she is activating the District’s emergency operations center beginning Monday so local and federal law enforcement agencies can coordinate their response to this week’s demonstrations. “I am asking Washingtonians and those who live in the region to stay out of the downtown area on Tuesday and Wednesday and not to engage with demonstrators who come to our city seeking confrontation, and we will do what we must to ensure all who attend remain peaceful,” she says. While Bowser is not enforcing this, she is banning some street parking downtown Tuesday through Thursday as is customary during demonstrations like these. Bowser is also calling on the National Guard to help local police manage demonstrations.
The local activist group ShutDownDC was quick to remind the mayor that people work downtown. “What’s your plan to keep them safe? Cuz ‘don’t go downtown’ ain’t cutting it,” the group tweeted to their 13.1K followers.
Black Lives Matter DC also asked residents to avoid the far-right rallies if they can. “We encourage Black and brown people to stay away from known areas where white extremists and militant gangs will gather on January 6th and, instead, use your voices and your power as constituents and consumers to demand that the mayor, city council, police and businesses stand up against white supremacy,” says organizer Marybeth Onyeukwu in a statement. Specifically, Black Lives Matter DC is demanding that officials enforce mask and social distancing guidelines, and protect sacred Black spaces like churches and Black Lives Matter Plaza. The group is also telling businesses to refuse services to any white supremacists and hate groups.
Both Hotel Harrington and Harry’s Bar are temporarily closing for parts of this week due to safety concerns. Far-right activists have been known to gather at these spots. Not everyone who works at Harrington is pleased with the new reputation. “It’s sad that they feel so comfortable here because obviously nobody who works here supports this stuff,” says one employee.
Extremism experts believe the District is becoming the battleground for violent demonstrations. “They feel Trump won the election and that the country is being stolen from them, so this is their last chance to save America,” Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, tells the Post. “They’re a lot angrier now, and that worries me. It worries me that now they’re deciding if they’re going to bring guns to the street fight.” FYI: Openly carrying firearms is illegal in D.C., as is carrying a weapon with an out-of-state concealed-carry permit.
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