DC officials push back on aggressive response to protests

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Members of the DC National Guard block an intersection on 16th Street as demonstrators gather to protest the death of George Floyd, Tuesday, June 2, 2020, near the White House in Washington. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON – Officials in the nation’s capital pushed back Tuesday on an aggressive response by the federal government to demonstrations over the death of George Floyd, with the mayor flatly rejecting a Trump administration proposal for the federal government to take over its police force and one county in Virginia pulling its officers from Washington.

The federal government has deployed law enforcement officials from numerous agencies, and National Guard troops from a number of states have been sent to the District of Columbia. Attorney General William Barr, who is directing the federal law enforcement response in the city, promised by Tuesday “even greater law enforcement resources and support in the region."

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser said the Trump administration floated the idea of taking over the Metropolitan Police Department, a proposal she strongly rejected. She threatened to take legal action if the federal government attempted to do so.

But there were signs that the federal response would be even more aggressive Tuesday night, as Washington prepared for a fifth night of protests.

Hours before a 7 p.m. curfew for the second night in a row, cars were being stopped at military checkpoints in downtown Washington and a cavalry of armored military vehicles could be seen driving through the district. Businesses were boarding up windows with plywood in anticipation of another night of violence after fires were set, windows were shattered, store shelves were emptied and dozens of police officers were injured in days of protests.

Two Defense Department officials said the Trump administration had ordered military aircraft to fly above Washington on Monday night as a “show of force” against demonstrators protesting the death of Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis policeman pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after Floyd stopped moving and pleading for air. Police made over 300 arrests, mainly for violating the district’s curfew.

Earlier Monday evening, law enforcement officers on foot and horseback moved aggressively to clear protesters away from Lafayette Park near the White House in advance of President Donald Trump’s walk to a nearby church for a photo opportunity.

After participating in the show of force, Arlington County in Virginia pulled out its officers, saying they were used “for a purpose not worthy of our mutual aid obligations.”