WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The mayor of Washington on Thursday called for the withdrawal from the U.S. capital of military units sent from outside the city as demonstrators gathered for a seventh day of protests against police brutality and racism.
“We want troops from out of state out of Washington D.C.,” Mayor Muriel Bowser told a news conference.
The U.S. capital has seen a week of protests over the death of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck. The incident triggered countrywide demonstrations against police brutality and racism.
Shops and offices in the city center and nearby areas were hit by nighttime vandalism and looting after peaceful protests last weekend, prompting a curfew.
The demonstrations mostly have been peaceful since, although officers from federal agencies and thousands of National Guard troops from other states have been deployed or are on their way to the city. Some 1,600 active duty forces sent from North Carolina and New York are on standby in the area.
Bowser said she had authorized the deployment of D.C. National Guard units as part of her response to the coronavirus pandemic, but did not request other military units.
The city’s police chief, Peter Newsham, asked “federal partners” to help with traffic, she said. “There are other federal assets we did not request that we understand are under the direction” of U.S. Attorney General William Barr.
Her government, she said, was “very concerned” by large numbers of troops deployed on Wednesday beyond Lafayette Park, opposite the White House, and worked with federal authorities to withdraw them.
Bowser, a Democrat, has fiercely criticized Republican President Donald Trump for his response to the protests.
Newsham said 427 people had been arrested between Sunday and Tuesday, but Wednesday saw no arrests.
(Reporting by Jonathan Landay; additional reporting by Idrees Ali and Tim Ahman; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)