Police tear gas protesters gathered near White House after George Floyd's death

Lauren Egan and Allan Smith and Garrett Haake and Minyvonne Burke and Nicole Acevedo
·4 min read

WASHINGTON — Protesters on Saturday converged at the White House and sought to break through barriers at Lafayette Park as nationwide demonstrations over George Floyd's death reached President Donald Trump's doorstep for the second consecutive day.

At the White House Saturday, police used pepper spray, tear gas and what appeared to be rubber bullets on protesters, seeking to push them back. Protesters tossed objects like bottles toward the police. Some pulled bricks out of a sidewalk near the park and began throwing them toward police.

Multiple cars and dumpsters were set on fire mere blocks from the White House. People smashed windows and spray painted buildings as the night went on.

Just after 9 p.m. ET, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy directed the D.C. National Guard to activate in response to U.S. Park Police asking for assistance with the protest, Commanding General William Walker said in a statement.

Earlier, protesters amid the large crowd could be seen standing on top of Secret Service vehicles and a security booth next to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Just before 6 p.m. ET, police warned protesters to clear the street and pushed them to do as much.

After 7 p.m., protesters moved to the opposite side of Lafayette Park, chanting and yelling at members of the Secret Service and Park Police. Officers lined up within the park behind barricades and park chain fencing. They zip-tied the barricades together and used pepper spray to keep protesters back.

Some in the crowd also ripped away the bike rack barriers that separate 17th Street from the Pennsylvania Avenue Plaza. Other demonstrators were seen standing face to face with a phalanx of Secret Service on the plaza.

Police block protesters in front of the White House on May 30, 2020. (Lauren Egan / NBC News)
Police block protesters in front of the White House on May 30, 2020. (Lauren Egan / NBC News)

Protesters chanted "hands up, don't shoot" and "I can't breathe."

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., took part in the demonstration, as she posted to Twitter: "People are in pain."

"We must listen," she continued.

Air around the White House was thick with pepper spray into the evening.

The protest began to die down after midnight as law enforcement used tear gas to push demonstrators back a few blocks.

Days after protests first began, Derek Chauvin, the since-fired officer who detained Floyd, a black man, was arrested and charged Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Chauvin was seen on videotape holding his knee against Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes as he begged for mercy.

Three other officers were also involved in Floyd's detainment.

Following intense protests Friday night, Trump warned that had those demonstrators breached the fence surrounding White House, they would have been met "by "vicious dogs" and "ominous weapons."

"Big crowd, professionally organized, but nobody came close to breaching the fence. If they had they would....have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen. That's when people would have been really badly hurt, at least," Trump tweeted Saturday morning, additionally praising the Secret Service after thousands gathered at the complex Friday.

One woman was taken into custody at that demonstration after climbing over a barrier.

Trump also tweeted that Saturday would be "MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE," though what he meant was unclear. The president had blamed violent outbreaks at some protests on "Radical Left" extremists, as did Attorney General William Barr.

"I stand before you as a friend and ally to every American seeking justice and peace," Trump told reporters Saturday. "And I stand before you in firm opposition to anyone exploiting this tragedy to loot, rob, attack and menace. Healing, not hatred, justice, not chaos are the mission at hand."

Protesters gather near the White House on Saturday night, May 30, 2020. (Lauren Egan / NBC News)
Protesters gather near the White House on Saturday night, May 30, 2020. (Lauren Egan / NBC News)

A law enforcement source told NBC News that "several dozen" Secret Service personnel sustained injuries during Friday's protests in Washington, DC. Some were transported to hospitals with non-life threatening injuries.

The president was in Florida on Saturday afternoon to witness a SpaceX rocket launch. Air Force One took off just after 6 p.m. and landed at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland around 8 p.m.

"A lot of us are fed up with racists being comfortable," said Jessica Briley, 31, of Arlington, Va., who had been protesting outside the White House since 2 p.m. Saturday. “The president's tweets are uncalled for. He knows certain words are trigger words."

Lauren Egan and Garrett Haake reported from Washington, and Allan Smith from New York.