Washington, Jun 2 (efe-epa).- Thousands of people protesting police violence against African Americans remained on the streets of the US capital Tuesday minutes ahead of the 7.00 pm curfew announced by the municipal government.
The crowds appeared to be significantly larger than on Monday, when federal law enforcement personnel resorted to tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and flash-bang grenades to clear peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square, next to the White House, so President Donald Trump could walk to a nearby church to be photographed holding the Bible.
The demonstrators who came out Tuesday marched toward the White House, but found Lafayette Park surrounded by a fence 2.5m (8ft) high.
Waiting beyond the fence were federal security agents in full riot gear.
Around 100 people knelt on the street at an intersection near the Executive Mansion to chant “I can’t breathe,” the words uttered by George Floyd on the evening of May 25 as a white Minneapolis police officer held his knee to the 46-year-old black man’s neck.
Floyd died at the scene.
Denunciations of Trump as a racist and demands for his resignation were also heard.
A day after the president’s unscheduled visit, St. John’s Church had its doors closed and its windows boarded up.
Monday’s episode sparked widespread condemnation from politicians, religious leaders and the local administration in the District of Columbia.
The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, DC, Mariann Budde, upbraided Trump for using “one of our churches as a prop.”
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser and the chief of the metropolitan police said that municipal officers played no part in breaking up the protest on Monday.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that US Attorney General William Barr personally ordered federal forces to drive the protesters out of Lafayette Park.
“I am mobilizing all available, federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the rioting and looting to end the destruction and arson and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans,” Trump said in the White House Rose Garden on Monday shortly before the attack on protesters.
Floyd’s death has spurred protests – sometimes accompanied by looting and arson – in cities across the United States.
“If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them,” Trump said Monday.
US law allows domestic use of the Armed Forces in only a few cases and it is unclear whether any such order by Trump under the current circumstances would be legal. EFE afs-llb/dr