The nation’s capital is bracing for its largest day of protests yet, with thousands of people expected to march Saturday against police brutality as the nation continues to mourn the death of George Floyd.
Black Lives Matter organizers were hoping to draw a million protesters.
Authorities have expanded the fenced security perimeter around the White House, which now extends to the outskirts of a park complex known as the Ellipse, near the National Mall.
“We have a lot of public, open-source information to suggest that the event on this upcoming Saturday may be one of the largest that we’ve had in the city,” D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham told reporters Thursday.
It was not clear how many would show up for Saturday’s demonstrations, but #1MillionDCSaturday was trending on Twitter in a call for 1 million people to march on the capital.
Demonstrators protest, Thursday, June 4, 2020, near the White House in Washington, over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said Friday that local officials were estimating a crowd of 100,000 to 200,000 protesters.
Newsham wouldn’t commit to a number but predicted it would be smaller than the Women’s March in 2017, which drew roughly a million people.
Police announced Friday that large swaths of roads would be closed to make room for demonstrators Saturday.
U.S. Park Police told McClatchy DC it was using “intelligence to monitor upcoming events” but would not divulge details that could “pose a hazard to the public and police.”
WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 02: Members of the D.C. National Guard stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as demonstrators participate in a peaceful protest against police brutality and the death of George Floyd, on June 2, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
More than 4,500 National Guard troops are still deployed in Washington and various federal law enforcement officers are also patrolling the city,
But Mayor Muriel Bowser wants all non-D.C.troops out of the city. All 900 active-duty military police brought to bases around Washington following the civil unrest after Floyd’s death are heading home, the Department of Defense said Friday.
Bowser said she only requested 100 D.C. National Guard troops to line the perimeter of the White House, in a limited role and unarmed.
Protesters have lined the streets surrounding the White House every day this week. On Monday, riot police cleared peaceful protesters out of Lafayette Square, using chemical agents, so that President Trump could walk to a neighboring church for a photo op.
Since then protests have been largely peaceful with few arrests.