Protesters returned to the streets on Tuesday from California to Pennsylvania, while the nation’s capital sizzled with tension a day after a highly criticized episode outside the White House in which law enforcement officers used tear gas on peaceful protesters in order to clear a path for President Trump.
The public spectacle on Monday and the arrival of dozens of military vehicles on Washington’s streets on Tuesday seemed to underscore the president’s latest threat — to use the military to crack down on violence and looting — as it emerged that it was Attorney General William P. Barr who ordered officers to clear Lafayette Park on Monday in time for Mr. Trump to walk to a historic church and have his picture taken there.
On Tuesday night, more than 1,000 protesters remained near the park after a 7 p.m. curfew, facing police officers across a tall chain-link fence erected overnight.
“You’re in the cage now!” one protester yelled. Another said, “Our tax dollars at work.”
But the crowd remained peaceful in a mood that appeared to be taking hold in other cities, too. When a few demonstrators began to rock the fence, they were quickly stopped. “Use your words,” two women yelled. “Don’t do that.”
The tensions earlier in the day in Washington reflected a nation on edge, ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, skyrocketing unemployment and now a public reckoning with systematic racism and police brutality.
Daily protests have spread to at least 140 cities, in a sprawling expression of anger and frustration after the killing in Minneapolis last week of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black security guard, who died after his neck was pinned under a white police officer’s knee for nearly nine minutes. The officer has been charged with murder.
Though planned protests have largely been peaceful, the national unrest has also come with escalating tensions, including attacks on law enforcement, injuries and deaths of protesters and others on the streets, and widespread looting and destruction. Police officers in several cities have been fired or disciplined for using excessive force.
Officials across the country remained on guard Tuesday for another night of chaos.
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