Why do Americans ignore the atrocities in Washington?
Protests in Washington : "Change only happens with violence"
When it crashes, the conversation is over. A flash of lightning flashes, a bang, billows of smoke - the demonstrators dash off in panic, away from the chain of police officers and national guards who are hermetically sealing 15th Street at this point, down H, in the direction of the White House they moved here less than an hour ago.
Shortly afterwards the situation eased again, apparently it was only a stun grenade with which the besieged forces wanted to get some air on Pentecost Sunday, nobody is injured.
The demonstrators move forward again, one next to the other in front of the police officers, so close that their coronavirus face mask almost rubs against the transparent face visors of the uniformed men. Provocatively close, so close that the officers can hear any insult, even if they keep their faces. The mind game starts all over again.
But the interlocutor disappeared before he could say his name. The young African American with the neatly tied dreadlocks and the black face mask had just told about how he and his friends got irritated gas and pepper spray here the previous evening after climbing into a police car.
"It was violent, the police wanted to arrest a man, we wanted to counteract." Why should he be arrested? The young man, who moved from Boston to DC three months ago and claims to work as a financial advisor, shrugs. Not so important. The important thing is why you are here: "Because we want justice."
For a short time, Donald Trump was housed in a bunker
As on the previous day, the tension in the heart of the American capital is increasing with every hour. Hundreds of protesters have once again gathered in front of US President Donald Trump's official residence to vent their anger over the death of African American George Floyd in Minneapolis earlier this week.
The 46-year-old had died after a brutal police operation: because a white officer who allegedly paid with counterfeit money pressed his knee against his neck for almost nine minutes, despite the fact that he repeatedly said "I can't breathe" (I can not breathing) and lost consciousness after almost seven minutes.
Three other officers were present at the incident but did not intervene to prevent the crime. Since a cell phone video of a passerby appeared on the Internet documenting the scene, the anger has grown with every day that passes without the police officers having to answer.
The kneeling policeman has since been arrested and charged with "third degree murder" and manslaughter, which in American law means that he is not accused of willful intent. The other three have been released but are still at large. Many do not understand that.
In Washington - and at the same time in more than a hundred other American cities - they are now protesting for the third day in a row: against police violence, racism and inequality, and always against Trump, who has holed up in the White House and has only closed himself up from there Wort reports to label the demonstrators as left-wing agitators and terrorists - or to accuse the state governors of being "too weak".
Amusement in the social media triggered media reports in the evening, according to which Trump was even taken to an underground bunker on the premises for an hour on the first day of protest, on which the White House was temporarily placed under lockdown - a security measure that is actually more likely in the event of a terrorist attack.
Since Saturday, the government headquarters has been cordoned off even more spaciously than usual, employees are asked to stay at home. If they do have to compete, they should not wear their IDs openly. Media representatives should use a different entrance than the usual one.
Entering the adjacent Lafayette Square, where hundreds were still there on the first day, is actually no longer allowed. Actually: on Sunday afternoon, the demonstrators simply move a few barriers aside and move closer to the large number of police officers, parking attendants and secret service guards, who initially relax and let the crowd do theirs.
Knees play a huge role these days
In the evening, as the situation heats up, the White House turns off most of its lights, a completely unfamiliar sight - and one with tremendous symbolic power for the president, who has gone underground along with his government. Where is the leader when you need him, many ask.
"Never in the 1227 days of Trump's presidency did the nation seem to call for leadership as it did on Sunday, but Trump made no move to offer it," writes the Washington Post.
Allegedly there is controversial discussion in the White House as to whether Trump should address his people from the Oval Office - whether that would calm the minds, however, can be seriously doubted. But the silence of almost all of the country's political elite in a crisis that is worsening every day is remarkable.
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This loophole is used by someone who has had a difficult time getting through his messages in public in the past Corona weeks. Trump's challenger-designate Joe Biden, who has barely left his house in Wilmington, Delaware since the beginning of March, is a powerful sign of life: the former vice-president of the first black US president, Barack Obama, posted a photo on Twitter showing him under one showing yellow caution tape kneeling in conversation with a black protester.
Knees play a big role these days. The demonstrators kneel down in front of the barricades of the White House every now and then on Sunday lunchtime, as others do around the country. In the direction of the police they shout: "Take our knees".
But at least one official kneels down behind his colleagues as security forces and demonstrators on 15th Street deliver their trench warfare. And from Minneapolis, where the unrest has been particularly violent since Floyd's death, pictures of the kneeling police chief go around the world on Sunday. Just like those of officials kneeling in solidarity in New York, Des Moines and many other cities.
These images give hope that there can be a way out of the daily increasing confrontation. The demonstrators are not alone in their pain and anger, these gestures are supposed to convey.
Most of the time, however, they feel ignored: by those who bear responsibility in their country. And in Washington, specifically, from the local police. “They don't talk to us, they don't give a damn about us,” says a young man who goes by the name of himself, staring angrily in the direction of the security forces. “I have no idea how they are trained, they can't even smile.” That is why it doesn't help to just keep talking and hoping that something will change on its own.
“Change only happens with violence. We have to become more aggressive, ”says the 21-year-old, who claims to be studying health sciences.
“Who are you protecting?” The demonstrators call out to the police
Even if many protesters in front of the White House like Wop persistently insult and challenge the officials - they shout "Who are you protecting?", "Don't shoot" and "You are complicit" - there are also some who show understanding. “They're just doing their job,” says Wesley.
The tall, bearded 27-year-old has just sat down on a park bench and looks tired. "It has to stop, I'm so sick of this violence that happens every single day." Wesley himself works for a private security company that guards buildings in the city, unlike many of his acquaintances, he has not lost his job.
But he too suffers from ubiquitous racism. "Again and again my friends and I are harassed by the police, often they want to pin something to us." They would be treated like criminals. "But this," says Wesley, pointing to the demonstrators, "they're not criminals!"
Sure, some also wanted to cause trouble, he said when asked what he had to say about the riots last night when shops were looted and buildings and vehicles were damaged. “There are some who want the police to attack us demonstrators and use tear gas. That's crap. "
The predominantly young African-Americans in Lafayette Square - there are more than 1000, and the number is increasing every day - are increasingly mingling with non-blacks. Many want to show solidarity, are frustrated themselves - and some like hooligans just want to experience a riot.
Sometimes this happens very quickly, for example when bottles are thrown from the crowd at the police officers or when some people push forward. Then the police advance in a long line, shields and clubs in hand, and stay until the situation calms down again.
Then it goes backwards, accompanied by applause and boos from the demonstrators. So the two camps swayed back and forth for hours, helicopters circling in the air, sirens constantly wailing.
What remains largely peaceful in the afternoon in glorious summer weather turns into violence when it gets dark. Suddenly fires break out, window panes break, the air smells of smoke and irritant gas.
Because looting has occurred in other cities and also in DC in the past few days, stores such as the furniture store West Elm on 14th Street are still quickly barring up their shop windows - with the same wooden boards that they were just starting to use after almost three months of Corona lockdown had dismantled.
The arguments are becoming more intense and there is no end in sight. Observers are already speaking of the worst unrest since 1967. In Washington, the protests began on the very day that the city's mayor, Muriel Bowser, cautiously relaxed the strict corona requirements for the first time.
For example, it is again allowed to sit outside of restaurants, of course at a distance. The anticipation was great to finally be able to go outside again after the long monotonous weeks, and summer started just in time. And now that.
Crowds in front of the White House - as if Corona were no longer an issue
After weeks of quasi house arrest, which many young people had to go through without a job, the emotions seem to explode. In Washington, more than 100,000 residents have registered as unemployed in the wake of the corona pandemic, which has already killed more than 100,000 people nationwide and over 40 of the approximately 330 million Americans have lost their jobs. That is a seventh of the population - almost half of whom are black.
So many people make their way to the White House every day now that you could almost forget that the coronavirus is still spreading here. Only the masks that everyone actually wears remind of what was the only topic of conversation until a week ago.
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After the first night of the riot and knowing about the violence that also shakes cities like Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Atlanta or New York evening after evening, the mayor imposed a curfew on Sunday evening, which applies between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. On Monday it should even start at 7 p.m. Hardly anyone can remember when that was the last time.
Why this measure is taken becomes apparent after dark. The occasional scramble turns into tangible arguments, and graffiti turns into vandalism, all over the city. Fires break out in front of the White House and the television images look dramatic.
For a short time the rumor spread that St. John's, the presidential church in Lafayette Square, would burn down. The anger in right-wing circles on the Internet is boiling up. The fact that it soon turns out that everything is not that bad will not have reached many. There was a fire in the basement, but the church itself apparently remained intact. Washington doesn't calm down until early in the morning.
Then on Monday against the demonstrations again. Again it is initially peaceful, the atmosphere during the day is more reminiscent of a rock concert, and finally something is going on again, many people think. There are also children.
It is also noticeable during these hours how friendly everyone is with one another. Anyone who accidentally bumps into someone in the crowd - social distancing suddenly seems like a concept of bygone days - apologizes. Thank you when you are let through.
"If we can protest, we can also clean up afterwards"
Volunteers keep walking through the crowd distributing water, face masks, hand sanitiser and food. And the demonstrators move on, clean up others, like Diego Garces, for example.
"If we can protest, we can clean up afterwards," he says. Order is important to him, so he simply bought a few garbage bags and others have joined him in the meantime. "We want to be a good example."
The 34-year-old is also here because he himself repeatedly experiences what racism is: Born in Colombia, he has lived in the USA since he was seven and has long since had his citizenship. "And yet I keep hearing: Go back to your country."
Shortly before it bangs and like everyone else he first tries to leave, the young man with the dreadlocks reports about racism. About how he was falsely accused as a twelve-year-old of stealing a bicycle. "The policeman grabbed me by the neck and threw me on the floor." That sort of thing happens all the time, it never stops.
Many here are familiar with this feeling of powerlessness. In addition, there is the frustration about the everyday injustices: the social situation and the high rents, which in Washington mean that many can no longer afford life in the city.
If something happens like in Minneapolis, the anger explodes: "I could be the next", it says on many signs in Lafayette Square. People are angry, they want to provoke - to be heard so that something can finally change.
Then the young man gives an answer to the question of how the protests could die down. “When all four police officers are arrested and charged, this will stop. But only then. "
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