WASHINGTON — Protesters clashed with police Monday following an attempt to remove the Andrew Jackson statue in Lafayette Square outside the White House.
The move by a group of racial justice protesters was seemingly a response to an earlier maneuver by DC's Metropolitan Police Department to remove tents from the area that the department said was an obstruction to the road.
It all started with this week's scheduled reopening of H Street.
D.C. Deputy Mayor Wayne Turnage said in a statement that as part of reopening H Street, an outreach team was sent to evaluate encampments located between 14th Street and 16th Street that were blocking parts of H Street. Residents of those encampments were asked to leave, but Deputy Mayor Turnage said after "three failed attempts" of engaging the residents, they were told at 11:15 am that they would be removed at 1 p.m.
Dozens of disembarked bicycle officers lined H Street after 1 p.m. and at 1:45 p.m. began moving toward the large group of people in the area, chanting "Move back" as they advanced, forcing anyone in the area south into Lafayette Square or north on to Black Lives Matter Plaza as they worked to clear the tents. Deputy Mayor Turnage said three warnings were issued over a loudspeaker before the officers advanced.
Two men were arrested and four officers were injured by objects that were thrown at them during the clearing of the area, police said.
Later Monday, just before 8 p.m., protesters broke through the fence surrounding the Andrew Jackson statue, threw ropes around it, and climbed on top to try to topple the bronze statue depicting Jackson in military uniform riding a horse that is reared on its hind legs.
Police responded to the scene using a bicycle barricade to quickly clear the crowd away from the statue, and back towards Black Lives Matter Plaza. The statue remained unmoved and mounted on its pedestal.
Pepper spray was used on the crowd to push protesters out of Lafayette Square. WUSA9 reporters on the scene were hit by the pepper spray.
Protesters started calling for medics, and many members of the crowd could be seen rubbing their eyes after police confronted the crowd. At least one protester was seen being carried out of the park by other protesters.
After being pushed out of Lafayette Square, most of the protesters remained in Black Lives Matter Plaza, and WUS9 reporter Mike Valerio described the atmosphere as "incredibly, utterly tense."
The standoff would remain there through the overnight Tuesday hours.
President Donald Trump tweeted that the incident resulted in numerous arrests.
The clash on Monday was the first instance of unrest since June 1 when federal police officers cleared protesters from the streets in the same area using tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets before President Donald Trump walked from the White House to St. John's Church.
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D.C.'s only outdoor statue of a Confederate general was torn down and burned by protesters on Friday outside MPD headquarters. The statue, of Brigadier General Albert Pike, was one of 18 Civil War monuments in D.C. that has stood in Judiciary Square since 1901.
Though the statue was feet from DC Police headquarters, police didn't respond to the scene until approximately an hour after the crowds gathered, after the statue had already been toppled and torched. When they arrived, they extinguished the flames.
"We want these statues to be taken down and displayed in museums so the story behind them can be told," D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said. "This is the United States. We don’t destroy our past. We learn from our past."