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Washington Protesters Decry Police Use of Military-Style Tactics

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Demonstrators in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House, square off against riot police on Tuesday. (Courtesy of Brandy Boyce)
Demonstrators in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House, square off against riot police on Tuesday. (Courtesy of Brandy Boyce)
June 4, 2020

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Just two days after peaceful protesters were dispersed with tear gas and rubber bullets near the White House, demonstrators in the nation's capital are denouncing the use of military tactics by local police.

Meka is hip-hop musician and protester from Northern Virginia who says he was entrapped by Washington police in riot gear earlier in the week when a curfew started in what's known as a kettling procedure.

That's a military technique used to corral people into a small area where they can't escape without getting arrested. The tactic forced him to spend the night in the home of a Washington resident who opened his door to protesters.

"We heard them start giving orders and start moving in, closing in on both sides, Macing people, hitting people," Meka relates. "And it was pretty chaotic. And then I looked over and saw Raoul open his door and just started telling everybody to run in, getting as many people inside as possible."

The last time Washington police used kettling was during President Donald Trump's 2017 inauguration, which led the American Civil Liberties Union to sue the city, alleging that the technique violates protesters' constitutional rights.

The Washington Police Department did not return a request for comment by deadline.

Some police departments in other cities, such as Baltimore, have struck a more conciliatory tone at demonstrations against the use of police force.

But Washington resident Brandy Boyce says the military tactics she's seen in protests this week reinforce what black people experience on a daily basis.

She's particularly disturbed by the city's use of helicopters to scare and intimidate demonstrators.

"It's really designed for use in war to spread fear and panic and disperse really dangerous situations," Boyce states. "And in fact, I don't think there is any time in recent history that helicopters have been used to disperse protesters in that way."

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released this week shows that a majority of Americans sympathize with nationwide protests over the death of unarmed black man George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, and more than 55% said they disapproved of Trump's handling of the protests.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - VA