WASHINGTON – Shouting “Black Lives Matter” and “I can't breathe,” hundreds of people converged on the White House for a second straight day Saturday to protest the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and President Donald Trump's response.
Trump, who earlier belittled the protesters, pledged to “stop mob violence.”
“I stand before you as a friend and ally to every American seeking justice and peace, and I stand before you in firm opposition to anyone exploiting this tragedy to loot, rob, attack and menace,” the president said in Florida after watching the launch of a SpaceX rocket. “Healing, not hatred, justice, not chaos are the missions at hand.”
Across from the White House, police lined up in front of the protesters, forming a human barricade as Trump returned to the White House from his Florida trip.
Protesters chanted and taunted the police. Witnesses said there were multiple incidents of protesters pushing against the barricades and being repelled with pepper spray.
“We're sick of it. The cops are out of control,” protester Olga Hall said.
Earlier, speaking over a megaphone, Cameron McCall said, “We don't need violence. All we need are our voices.”
The mood was angry but decidedly non-violent with several speakers imploring marchers to remain peaceful.
In a series of tweets earlier Saturday, Trump doubted their allegiance to Floyd's memory, saying they were “professionally managed.”
As he tweeted, Trump claimed that many Secret Service agents were “just waiting for action” and ready to unleash “the most vicious dogs, and the most ominous weapons, I have ever seen.” His reference to vicious dogs revisits images from the civil rights movement when marchers faced snarling police dogs and high-pressure fire hoses.
In a news conference Saturday afternoon, Muriel Bowser, mayor of the nation's capital, called Trump's remarks gross and said the reference to attack dogs conjures up with the worst memories of the nation's fight against segregation.