WASHINGTON — Washingtonians took to the streets near the White House Friday and Saturday night into the early hours of the morning, calling for justice after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. But after two nights of unrest, Sunday afternoon ushered in peaceful protests led by two Howard University students and a healing circle at the Lincoln Memorial.
As two high school seniors posed in prom dresses with the Reflecting Pool as their backdrop, nearly 200 demonstrators marched up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial calling for commonsense police reform.
"That was the important thing for us to get together and show that we could be united and together peacefully without any issues that we've seen all across the country," organizer Calvin Ferguson said. "We're just people that are frustrated, we're angry, and we just want justice. We want police reform, so we decided to come out and make our voices heard peacefully."
The peaceful protest turned into a vigil in memory of Floyd, with organizers encouraging participants to voice their anger and frustration, while avoiding violence and squashing out hate.
"Express what's on your heart, express how you're feeling without being violent, without destroying things," Ferguson said.
Mia Price, a participant in the prayer circle, said she felt the best way to use negative emotions in a positive way is to create something.
"If you have a frustration and you're angry, make something beautiful out of the anger," Price said. "If you need to know more about why you're so angry, and how come things aren't changing, read something, create something from what you've learned."
But two blocks away, outside the White House, police were deploying tear gas on protesters, alluding to the night that was to come. Approximately an hour before Mayor Muriel Bowser's mandated 11 p.m. curfew was set to go into effect, chaos erupted. A bonfire was set in the middle of the street at Lafayette Square park. There were also reports of buildings on fire, tear gas being deployed and agitators launched fireworks as authorities advanced their line, pushing protesters back.
"I just want to see peace and justice," one visitor to the Lincoln Memorial said when asked what he wants to see when he wakes up Sunday.
Protests erupted nationwide days after Floyd’s death calling for the arrests of all the officers involved after a Memorial Day viral video showed Floyd being pinned down by his neck by then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Floyd, who is repeatedly heard in the video saying he can't breathe and asking for Chauvin to get off his neck, died that day.
The Minneapolis mayor on Tuesday fired all four officers involved in the incident. On Friday, Chauvin was arrested and charged with murder and manslaughter in Floyd's death. But the other three officers who were involved in the incident have not yet been arrested or charged, with prosecutors in Minnesota on Friday saying that charges are likely forthcoming.