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Protests Over Police Brutality Continue In D.C.


We're going to go to the scene of one of the demonstrations happening now. Here in Washington, D.C., thousands of people have gathered near the White House to protest police brutality and racism. There in the crowd near the White House is NPR's Tim Mak. Tim, thanks for being here.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So we've seen several days of protests in Washington, D.C., by now. How does this one compare?

MAK: So D.C.'s police chief predicted that this would be the largest crowd yet. And having been here earlier this week, his prediction is totally right. I mean, the crowd here is far larger than the crowds in previous days, which had already numbered in the thousands. Take a listen to how it sounds.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) No justice, no peace. No justice, no peace. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter.

MAK: Demonstrators have been shouting slogans like you just heard - no justice, no peace and Black Lives Matter - as well as repeatedly chanting the name of George Floyd.

MARTIN: And how would you characterize it? Would you describe it as a peaceful gathering? I mean, have there been any confrontations?

MAK: Right. So our producer, Meg Anderson, and I have been here all afternoon, and there hasn't been a single sign of confrontation. In fact, the atmosphere has been one of optimism. Here's Roosevelt Holt (ph). He's a Vietnam War veteran who is going to be 70 next month. He's been bearing witness to protests for black equality since the civil rights movement in the '60s.

ROOSEVELT HOLT: I'm really glad to see the energy being kept up because it's a long-term struggle. It always has been. And it didn't start today, and it won't end today. This particular day at this period was like a pinnacle of the progress of the civil rights movement.

MAK: And Simone Pearson (ph), a young black woman who was handing out snacks and water to protesters along with a group of friends.

SIMONE PEARSON: All of us truly believe in stopping systemic racism. So basically, what that is is trying to give underserved communities a better chance at education, a better chance at health care and all of those good things. And so we're trying to support the people who are out here actually protesting for those rights and for - to stop police brutality.

MAK: There's a positive feeling in the air - people singing, dancing, even a deejay spinning tracks not far from where I'm standing now.

MARTIN: You know, over the years, we've seen protests literally at the White House gates. But that's no longer the case, I take it.

MAK: No. There's been a much wider security perimeter established, pushing protesters back across Lafayette Square, past newly-erected fencing here. I will say that law enforcement presence here has been a lot more subdued than in previous days. On Monday and Tuesday, you couldn't go more than a few blocks without seeing officers from various federal agencies. There's clearly been an effort to de-escalate. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser came by the protest today.


MURIEL BOWSER: It's wrong to have the United States military on American soil to threaten Americans. And that's wrong, and we should all be watching what's happening in Washington, D.C.

MAK: So now I'm standing near St. John's Church, where protesters were tear gassed on Monday. And I don't see a single officer in sight - just a very tall black fence in front of the White House.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Tim Mak. Tim, thank you.

MAK: Thanks a lot. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tim Mak is NPR's Washington Investigative Correspondent, focused on political enterprise journalism.