Protesters and secret service in D.C. on May 30, 2020.

Protesters and secret service in D.C. on May 30, 2020.

The District is on its third day of protests since the death of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis after a police officer, now accused or murder, put a knee to his neck. The second day of protests included peaceful rallying and clashes between protesters and police officers. Today, D.C. woke up to broken glass and graffiti before activists began protesting again in the afternoon.

We hear from reporters, activists and community leaders about the protests.

Produced by The Kojo Nnamdi Show team


  • Gabe Bullard Senior Editor and Affordability Desk Project Manager, WAMU; @gbullard
  • Jordan Pascale Reporter, WAMU; @JWPascale
  • Kymone Freeman Co-founder, We Act Radio; Contributor, "Anacostia Unmapped"; @guerillartist
  • Greg Carr Chair, Dept. of Afro-American Studies, Howard University; @AfricanaCarr
  • Margaret Barthel Reporter, WAMU; @margaretbarthel


  • 18:00:02

    SASHA-ANN SIMONSYou're tuned into a special live broadcast from WAMU and the Kojo Nnamdi Show. I'm Sasha-Ann Simons, national correspondent for WAMU's 1A, sitting in for Kojo. Welcome. The story, it's unfolding as we speak, across the country. Washington, D.C. joins many other cities on their third day of protests since George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

  • 18:00:27

    SASHA-ANN SIMONSIn the nation's capital, Saturday's demonstrations included both peaceful rallying and clashes between law enforcement and activists decrying police brutality and tonight, the protests continue. Joining us to discuss is Margaret Barthel. She's a reporter in the WAMU newsroom. Hi, Margaret.

  • 18:00:46

    MARGARET BARTHELHi there, Sasha.

  • 18:00:48

    SIMONSGabe Bullard is an editor in the WAMU newsroom. Thanks for joining us, Gabe.

  • 18:00:53

    GABE BULLARDThanks for having me.

  • 18:00:55

    SIMONSAnd Jordan Pascale is a reporter also in the WAMU newsroom. Hi, Jordan.

  • 18:00:59


  • 18:01:00

    SIMONSNow, Margaret, I'm going to start with you. We're gonna get an update, because you are covering the protests as we speak. Tell us where you are now. What are you seeing around you?

  • 18:01:09

    BARTHELYeah. Yeah, I am on the corner of Connecticut Avenue and H Street, right outside of Lafayette Park, which is full of protesters. It's, you know, just almost difficult to see too far into the park itself --

  • 18:01:27


  • 18:01:29

    BARTHEL-- because there's so many people here.

  • 18:01:30

    SIMONSSo the crowds -- it sounds like the crowds are pretty big now. Did that just happen or has it sort of been growing throughout the afternoon?

  • 18:01:39

    BARTHELYeah, well, so we know that there have been several different protests throughout the weekend. There was one that began earlier today, this afternoon, and started elsewhere in downtown D.C., and moved to the White House and is now here at the White House.

  • 18:02:00


  • 18:02:02

    BARTHELBut we've been seeing a lot. I mean, you know, we just saw a car caravan of people driving by, honking their horns, with signs that said "Black Lives Matter." And, you know, other messages about this moment.

  • 18:02:19


  • 18:02:19

    BARTHELAnd so it really -- there's kind of -- there's a lot going on.

  • 18:02:23

    SIMONSYeah, yeah, and we've certainly seen the pictures from across the country of this moment, as you mentioned, throughout the weekend. We hear that tonight's protests in D.C., though, began peacefully, Margaret, so tell us, is that still the case, or have you seen any clashes with police?

  • 18:02:40

    BARTHELYeah, I have not personally seen any. There is a significant police presence here.

  • 18:02:47


  • 18:02:48

    BARTHELThere are kind of, you know, significant numbers of police just around the downtown core. As we were coming in, we were seeing a lot of -- many, many law enforcement officers out, and some of them --

  • 18:03:03

    SIMONS(overlapping) Does it look like more than yesterday? Does it look like more than Saturday?

  • 18:03:06

    BARTHELI was not personally on the ground on Saturday, but it does look like it's a significant number, and --

  • 18:03:14


  • 18:03:14

    BARTHEL-- there are -- and many wearing helmets and carrying shields. So the crowd has --

  • 18:03:22

    SIMONSAny signs of rioting?

  • 18:03:23

    BARTHEL-- there have been -- yeah, nothing. No signs of people destroying property or anything along those lines at this point that we've seen. There have been a couple of moments where the crowd has kind of retreated pretty dramatically. People have kind of come running out of Lafayette Park, and we haven't been able to confirm what exactly happened in that instance.

  • 18:03:52


  • 18:03:53

    BARTHELBut yeah, kind of a lot going on at the scene at this point.

  • 18:03:58

    SIMONSAbsolutely. Now, what are you hearing from the protesters themselves? Like, what are they telling you about why they're there? What's the message tonight?

  • 18:04:06

    BARTHELYeah, I think the message is what it has been, in large part, across the weekend. You know, this kind of outpouring of anger and frustration and outrage over the death of George Floyd and experiences of people of color with law enforcement. Those are the -- that's kind of the signs and the chants that we're hearing. You know, "No Justice, No Peace," "Black Lives Matter." So that seems to be the message at this point.

  • 18:04:47

    SIMONSWell, Margaret, continue to stay safe out there. Margaret Barthel is a reporter in the WAMU newsroom. She joins us from the protests under way in D.C. She's on Connecticut Avenue right now. We're gonna check back in with her later in the hour.

  • 18:05:01

    SIMONSNow, also joining me is Gabe Bullard. He's an editor in the WAMU newsroom. Gabe, you and reporter Matt Blitz covered the protests in D.C. yesterday, so you can give us a better picture of what that looked like. Give us a sense of how large the turnout was on Saturday.

  • 18:05:18

    BULLARDIt was pretty large when I got there in the evening, easily in the hundreds. It's hard to give an exact count. And we stayed largely around Lafayette Park, sort of around the border there, the northern border, on H Street, and the street was full. There were people sort of pushed out into the side streets as the crowds grew, and so everywhere you turned there was another crowd of protesters.

  • 18:05:40

    BULLARDAnd the caravan of demonstrators, when I got there, was still going. There were people lined along the streets to cheer them as well, and the cars just kept coming. So it was a pretty significant turnout.

  • 18:05:49

    SIMONSSo speaking of the caravan, you know, yesterday's protests did unfold in two parts. There were the daytime protests that had the car caravan that was organized by the D.C. chapter of Black Lives Matter, and protests that stretched into the early morning hours. Can you tell us if that was the same group of people that was protesting from day to night, basically?

  • 18:06:08

    BULLARDPeople were coming and going sort of throughout the day. When I showed up, I was walking up to sort of the big crowd at Lafayette Park around 7:30 or so, and I bumped into somebody -- the first person I talked to was a demonstrator who was leaving. He had just been hit with some pepper spray, he said his eyes were burning, he had had enough. He was getting out of there.

  • 18:06:27

    BULLARDAnd there were people I talked to sort of throughout the evening who had just shown up; people who had been there for hours and hours, who had been there pretty much all day. And I think throughout the night we kind of saw the crowd was changing as people were coming and going, and the signs were changing. People were sort of cycling in and out throughout the evening. So it was a different group by the evening, though with some of the same people sticking around.

  • 18:06:49

    SIMONSNow, you mentioned that protester, who was sprayed with pepper spray. Give us a better sense of the violent scene that we heard that happened last night.

  • 18:06:58

    BULLARDYeah, so that was another thing that sort of went in cycles and built up over the course of the evening. You know, earlier in the evening, before the sun went down, there would be the occasional times when demonstrators might have pulled some of the temporary barricades back, and officers would pull those, and they would sort of clash over that, officers pushing protesters back.

  • 18:07:20

    BULLARDOccasionally there was something like Margaret described, where a group of people would suddenly start running back. Pepper spray was going, people were throwing water bottles, sometimes, over the head of the crowd, into the police.

  • 18:07:32

    BULLARDThere were some fireworks that went off here and there, but these were all sort of smaller skirmishes. Then as the night went on, in, say, the 10:00 hour, Matt and I even noticed, we were standing near a trashcan that was on fire, and no one seemed to notice it.

  • 18:07:47


  • 18:07:48

    BULLARDPeople were pretty calm. Then something within the trashcan, something inside of it blew up. There was a loud popping sound.

  • 18:07:53


  • 18:07:54

    BULLARDOne group of demonstrators ran over, they were dumping their water bottles onto it to sort of put out the fire. There were calls for peace. One demonstrator, Ariana Evans, was walking, and she had a megaphone, and she was saying, "Please keep this peaceful" and getting cheers as she was telling people.

  • 18:08:10

    BULLARDBut then around 11:00, up around I and 16th or so, a car was set on fire, glass started breaking, protesters breaking some of the windows on the Ronald Reagan Institute, and some of those buildings around there. And more fireworks going off, a cadence of fireworks, and sort of these devices that were popping. That started going more and more and more after eleven o'clock or so. And then --

  • 18:08:35

    SIMONSSo you --

  • 18:08:36

    BULLARD-- that's when things really escalated.

  • 18:08:38

    SIMONSYeah, it sounds like it, and so with all these incidents, what do you know about the number of arrests that were made last night. Were there any serious injuries?

  • 18:08:48

    BULLARDYeah, so there were -- sort of throughout the day, even, one thing, there were a number of protesters who were there sort of to provide medical support to each other. So early on, Matt and I saw some people who were getting bandaged up or checked out.

  • 18:09:00

    BULLARDBut the police, the MPD, says they made 17 arrests; 14 of those charged for rioting. Secret Service police says Friday and Saturday they had 60 officers injured, 11 MPD officers reportedly had non-life-threatening injuries.

  • 18:09:16


  • 18:09:16

    BULLARDSo that's sort of what it looks like right now.

  • 18:09:19

    SIMONSWhat has been the response from MPD, and also from Mayor Muriel Bowser?

  • 18:09:24

    BULLARDSo the response has been the mayor today said, quote, "We're sending a very clear message to people. They have the right to exercise their First Amendment rights, but not to destroy our city." She urged -- the mayor urged peace. The police chief as well, also urging for peaceful protest, saying they were going to be prepared for more activism tonight, but encouraging residents to stay peaceful whenever they go out there.

  • 18:09:47

    SIMONSMm-hmm. Now, a listener emailed us, and they said, "Are the demonstrators mentioning Trump in their chants or on their signs? Do they draw any connection between Trump policies and programs and the troubles in our cities?" What do you say to that, Gabe?

  • 18:10:01

    BULLARDOh, very much so.

  • 18:10:02


  • 18:10:03

    BULLARDPresident Trump was mentioned by name on a number of signs, in a number of chants as well. Many protesters calling the president a racist and wanting him voted out of office. So the president's, I think, response to some of this, the president's current and past statements regarding race and demonstrations, were certainly on the minds of a lot of protesters. And that came through in graffiti that was spray-painted, that came through in signs that were being waved, that came through in chants as well.

  • 18:10:35

    SIMONSNow, officials in other cities, including Minneapolis, they've said that the people that were rioting and inciting violence in these protests, they're not locals, and they're taking advantage of George Floyd's death to really just bring violence and destruction to those local communities.

  • 18:10:50

    SIMONSWhether that's true, that's kind of differed between cities. So what's the situation here in D.C., Gabe? Do we know anything specific about those people, who were arrested? Were they truly people for the cause?

  • 18:11:02

    BULLARDSo, looking at the statistics, about half of the people arrested, eight of them, had some ties to the city, or were residents. A number of people from various parts of Virginia, Alexandria, Chesterfield, Woodbridge, I believe.

  • 18:11:15


  • 18:11:16

    BULLARDA few people with no fixed address. But those arrested have those local ties. Then everyone I talked to was from the area. They lived -- not only did they say, "I'm from D.C.," they would cite their neighborhood, they would cite individual towns if they were from, if they were from Maryland or Virginia. And everyone I talked to was from the area.

  • 18:11:36

    SIMONSQuick 30 seconds before we take a pause here, Gabe. Tell me about the businesses in the district. Some of them were vandalized last night too. How widespread was that?

  • 18:11:45

    BULLARDSo yeah, there were windows broken downtown, sort of going out from Lafayette Park. Some in Georgetown, and also some around the city center development.

  • 18:11:54


  • 18:11:55

    BULLARDAnd I went down this morning, went back downtown, and saw some of the glass being cleaned up, some of the windows being boarded up.

  • 18:12:01


  • 18:12:02

    BULLARDAnd that was sort of the scene this morning.

  • 18:12:04

    SIMONSLet's take a quick pause here. We wanna hear from you. Remember, give us a call at 800-433-8850. What has it been like? If you've been down there at the protests, what's it been like to take to the streets in the midst of a pandemic? We're curious. Did you choose not to participate, by chance, in the weekend's protest? Give us a call. We'll continue our conversation after a short break. Stay with us.

  • 18:12:44

    SIMONSWelcome back. I'm Sasha-Ann Simons, in for Kojo Nnamdi. We are talking with Margaret Barthel, she's a reporter in the WAMU newsroom; Gabe Bullard, he's an editor, also in the WAMU newsroom. I'm now joined by Jordan Pascale, a reporter in the WAMU newsroom.

  • 18:13:00

    SIMONSNow, he's been monitoring events around D.C. on social media. So, Jordan, first question for you -- businesses, as we heard Gabe before the break tell us about the businesses in the district that were vandalized last night, but they weren't the only targets of vandalism. What are you seeing, as far as other locations that were vandalized?

  • 18:13:18

    PASCALEYeah, well, not only am I looking at social media, but also went out in person on my bike. Most of the damage was around that Lafayette Square/White House area. But there was even some graffiti on the National Mall. On the World War II Memorial, someone wrote "Do black veterans count?"

  • 18:13:33


  • 18:13:34

    PASCALEAnd near the Lincoln Memorial, "Are y'all not tired of this yet?" D.C. police said that a lot of this kind of damage around the district was a small group of people that did the majority of this, but it did stretch quite a bit. It went from Georgetown to city center.

  • 18:13:51

    PASCALEAnd as far as I could tell, the looting was probably at a lot of higher-end businesses. One restaurant had graffiti that said, "The rich aren't safe anymore." On Pennsylvania Avenue, I saw some luxury apartment with their front doors broken and planters busted, and near the White House I saw a line of parked cars, and a Range Rover that had broken windows, but the other older vehicles did not.

  • 18:14:15


  • 18:14:16

    PASCALESo --

  • 18:14:17

    SIMONSLots going on.

  • 18:14:18

    PASCALEThat's what I saw, yeah.

  • 18:14:19


  • 18:14:20

    PASCALEAnd one thing that I saw on social media, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said in a speech, you know, we cannot focus so much on the property damage that we forget why the people are in the streets.

  • 18:14:32

    SIMONSJordan, do you have a sense, from what you're seeing on social media, if today's protests have been as widespread as what we saw yesterday? What does it look like from your vantage point?

  • 18:14:41

    PASCALEYeah, it does. Crowd size estimates are incredibly hard, especially hard if you don't have a drone or something like that to do crowd estimates. But it certainly looks like the passion and the momentum has not waned in this third day of protests.

  • 18:15:00

    SIMONSBefore we add some more voices to this conversation, I'd like to jump to the phones. We've got Robert Brannon from D.C. Hi, Robert, you're on the line.

  • 18:15:08

    ROBERT BRANNONMy comment is that I was there Friday. I was up at the barrier, at the front, and my -- if there was the -- what I saw was a lot of young people who were expressing their frustration with the police conduct, and the death of Mr. George Floyd.

  • 18:15:40


  • 18:15:41

    BRANNONAnd the pushback that may have come from law enforcement, police we need to be sure to identify came from Secret Service police, not MPD. MPD provided traffic control and escorts and protection for the demonstrators as they traveled and marched.

  • 18:16:07


  • 18:16:08

    BRANNONAnd so --

  • 18:16:09

    SIMONS(overlapping) So you're saying that most of the action you saw with law enforcement was the Secret Service and not --

  • 18:16:15


  • 18:16:15

    SIMONS-- D.C. police.

  • 18:16:16

    BRANNONThe National Park Service and you have Capital police.

  • 18:16:19


  • 18:16:19

    BRANNONBut they went to the Capital. The tear-gassing and the pushback -- I was there, because I saw. It was the Secret Service that did it.

  • 18:16:27


  • 18:16:27

    BRANNONParticularly at the White House, because I was there when the incident happened at the White House.

  • 18:16:33

    SIMONSYeah. Okay, thanks for your call, Robert. I wanna have someone address this. Gabe, does that square with what you saw?

  • 18:16:39

    BULLARDBehind the barriers, holding the riot shields, when I was there yesterday, it was the Secret Service police. I did see Park Service police. Also the D.C. National Guard had been deployed.

  • 18:16:52

    SIMONSOkay. Now let's bring in some more voices to the conversation. I'm now joined by Greg Carr. He's the chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University. Also joining us is Kymone Freeman. He's an activist and cofounder of We Act Radio here in D.C. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us this evening.

  • 18:17:10

    KYMONE FREEMANThank you for having us.

  • 18:17:12

    SIMONSDr. Carr, I'm gonna start with you, because at this point we do need to bring in some historical context, because what we're seeing unfold right now in our country, this is not new. What do you believe is driving these protests?

  • 18:17:26

    GREG CARRIn a phrase, state violence. When we see folks out in spontaneous protest, in some ways we can think of it as a strike against the existing social order. In other words, it was the social order that seeded these kinds of -- the situation that leads to this.

  • 18:17:43

    GREG CARRSo, state violence. In this case, of course, police brutality -- the murder of a human being by another human being. And certainly, here in D.C., where 52 years passed, when more than 12,000 National Guard and troops from the 82nd Airborne occupied the city in the wake of the murder of Martin Luther King, and the kind of rebellion that sparked from there, that strike.

  • 18:18:05

    GREG CARRD.C. is a lot like Minneapolis/St. Paul area in the sense that it's multiracial --

  • 18:18:08


  • 18:18:08

    CARR-- there's a multinational, urban kind of population, and we're in a pandemic. So what we have to understand is the history of disease in this country even goes back to the early 19th century, yellow fever, cholera. This isn't the first time that we've been hit with those types of things.

  • 18:18:23

    CARRAnd the most vulnerable people in a society will respond out of that vulnerability, particularly when you have flashpoints like what we've experienced this week.

  • 18:18:32


  • 18:18:32

    CARRFlashpoints of violence which kind of draw them to give voice.

  • 18:18:36


  • 18:18:36

    CARRSo this isn't organized, and so that's why we have to be careful, finally, as we think through responses to these strikes against the existing social order. We have to be very careful to think about the fact that we are at a moment when we will probably not go back to the society we were in not even a week ago, as we have talked about with this pandemic. We're not going back to the society we were at three months ago.

  • 18:18:59

    SIMONSKymone, as an activist yourself, what do you make of the protests in D.C., and the MPD's response to them?

  • 18:19:06

    FREEMANFirst, let me say that we have to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Very few people have acknowledged the (unintelligible) report that said that law enforcement has been, quote, unquote, "infiltrated by white supremacists."

  • 18:19:19

    FREEMANThat's a 2006 FBI report, who are not friends of black people, who have acknowledged this. They even went on and testified recently that white supremacy is one of the greatest threats to the internal security of the United States.

  • 18:19:30

    FREEMANNeither one of these facts have been addressed or acknowledged, especially during this crisis. And then the whole -- I just wanna also put to rest this whole notion of "outside agitators," which harks back to the Civil Rights movement, when they would say that oh, it's just Northerners coming down here --"

  • 18:19:44


  • 18:19:45

    FREEMAN"-- and stirring up trouble with our good negroes." It is outrageous to assert that people, who don't live in the area don't have a right to protest. This is the nation's capital. People come from all over the country to protest here. Why should this be any different?

  • 18:19:59


  • 18:20:00

    FREEMANAnd furthermore, they all live in this country, and this problem is affecting everyone in this country -- well, at least people of color in this country.

  • 18:20:07


  • 18:20:08

    FREEMANAnd also, the police themselves are inciting violence. You know, we have --

  • 18:20:11

    SIMONSYeah. Well, Kymone, I wonder if you can address --

  • 18:20:12

    FREEMAN-- documented cases of this.

  • 18:20:14

    SIMONSI wonder if you can address this caller we have on the line. Ken joins us from Baltimore -- hi, Ken. You're on the air.

  • 18:20:20

    KENYeah, this is Ken, and I condemn and deplore the violence against George Floyd, when he was murdered by four so-called, you know, white police, who were racist. I mean, that's unacceptable, and I don't think we can tolerate that anymore. So I'm glad people are protesting against it by marching. And to --

  • 18:20:46


  • 18:20:47

    KENIt amazes me that people from all over the United States are protesting. I'm glad we're --

  • 18:20:51


  • 18:20:52

    KEN-- upset over this. And that's my comments.

  • 18:20:56

    SIMONSThanks for your call, Ken. Appreciate it. Kymone, does that square with sort of the support that you're hearing or what are you hearing?

  • 18:21:03

    FREEMANYes, because when I was down at the White House today, it was a rainbow coalition of beautiful people screaming "Stop killing black people."

  • 18:21:11


  • 18:21:12

    FREEMANAnd this has been going on for far too long, and we have yet to put a (unintelligible) on killer cops in this country, or acknowledge the first two points that I made in regards to the fact that law enforcement itself is a domestic terrorist force in the United States of America when it comes to people of color and poor people in general.

  • 18:21:27


  • 18:21:28

    FREEMANAnd the protesters haven't attacked anyone. There's only been two instances where violence that occurred (unintelligible) has victims of protests, and that was because they were being attacked. But the police -- you know, the whole notion of calls for peaceful protest --

  • 18:21:43


  • 18:21:43

    FREEMAN-- but no calls for the police to remain peaceful is absurd, and it furthermore --

  • 18:21:47


  • 18:21:47

    FREEMAN-- hints at the problem that we have. No one's in control of the police. They are their own rogue agency.

  • 18:21:53

    SIMONSYeah, and we'll talk more about that later in the hour. Tannie called us, but she couldn't stay on the line. She said, "I wish the US would come to a place where it's not black versus white, but all races in unity." Lots of folks feel that way, Tannie, but unfortunately, that's not the way things have been playing out, which is why we are now here. You're listening to a special live broadcast from WAMU and the Kojo Nnamdi Show. I'm Sasha-Ann Simons, we'll be back in a moment. Stay with us.

  • 18:22:46

    SIMONSI'm Sasha-Ann Simons, sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. I'm talking with Greg Carr. He's the chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University. Kymone Freeman is an activist and cofounder of We Act Radio here in D.C.

  • 18:22:59

    SIMONSAlso with us is Gabe Bullard, an editor in the WAMU newsroom, Jordan Pascale, a reporter in the WAMU newsroom, and we're going to rejoin Margaret Barthel, reporter in the WAMU newsroom, who is on location for us right now. Margaret, you there? Give us an update. Where are you now?

  • 18:23:16

    BARTHELHi -- hi there, Sasha. Yes, I am on 16th Street, looking directly towards the White House. Still a really packed crowd here in Lafayette Park, and spilling out onto H Street and up 16th. And there's a lot of people out, there are a lot of people kind of coming and going, people riding by on bikes with the signs.

  • 18:23:46

    SIMONSWhat's the energy like, are they chanting?

  • 18:23:49

    BARTHELYep, they are chanting, a combination of chants. Black Lives Matter, no justice, no peace, chanting about George Floyd directly, of course. So yeah --

  • 18:24:02


  • 18:24:03

    BARTHEL-- that's what it looks like out here.

  • 18:24:04

    SIMONSWell, you also mentioned earlier the police presence, that there were a lot of law enforcement there on the scene. Is that still the case? What's it like now? Do you have a sense of whether it's MPD or federal forces?

  • 18:24:18

    BARTHELSo we have so far seen -- I have seen mostly Metropolitan Police Department, and they're kind of in the streets around Lafayette Park. We've seen clusters of groups of police officers. I can't say directly if they are park police or National Guardsmen or Secret Service police involved --

  • 18:24:48


  • 18:24:49

    BARTHEL-- at this point. Of course, that was the case last night, and --

  • 18:24:53


  • 18:24:54

    BARTHEL-- we could expect that to be the case tonight.

  • 18:24:56

    SIMONSWell, you stay safe out there. Thanks so much for the update. Margaret Barthel is a reporter in the WAMU newsroom. Now, shifting to Gregory Carr here, I wanna go back about a week ago. There's been so much over the past few days. Let's go back a week ago, when Christian Cooper, a black man, was bird-watching in Central park. Many of us saw that video. He asked a white woman, her name's Amy Cooper, to put a leash on her dog.

  • 18:25:22

    SIMONSThe interaction played out on video, in which Ms. Cooper called 911. She reported, quote, "an African-American man was threatening" her. It went viral. Later that same day, that's when George Floyd -- unfortunately the police officer knelt on his neck as he repeatedly said, on video, "I can't breathe." I'm wondering, Dr. Carr, can you help connect the dots here? What do these instances have in common?

  • 18:25:48

    CARRWell, yes -- well, Sasha, I think what they have in common is whiteness. And that sounds like a broad thing, but let me be very much more specific. The policing function in this country, or the imposition or maintenance of order through force, emerged in this country in protection of property in the interests of the elites in the North, in urban areas like Boston, New York.

  • 18:26:12

    CARRBut in the South, the origins of policing and official policing forces were the slave patrols. And they were to intimidate people to stop them from trying to escape. They were to intimidate people on the plantation. And that's where police forces emerged in the South. That was the root of them.

  • 18:26:28

    CARRSo the two instances we saw this week with the Coopers, ironically -- both of them with the same name, almost like from a normative position --

  • 18:26:34


  • 18:26:35

    CARR-- of indistinguishability comes this racial divide.

  • 18:26:36

    SIMONS(overlapping) And you saw all the reports that had to distinguish "no relation." You know --

  • 18:26:41

    CARRExactly. And it --

  • 18:26:42

    SIMONSBecause -- yeah.

  • 18:26:43

    CARR-- interesting, the irony even in saying "no relation," although they're both Americans.

  • 18:26:47


  • 18:26:48

    CARRSo what we see is the kind of extralegal power of whiteness. What I mean by that -- coming out of the relationship of enslavement, white people could be deputized to arrest, to detain, to move, to impose their will on the black body. They did not have to have an official position. So at any given moment, from enslavement really to the present, any white person is in a position to control the black body.

  • 18:27:16


  • 18:27:17

    CARR"What are you doing here, why are you here." We saw one of your colleagues, Brother Jimenez there --

  • 18:27:22


  • 18:27:23

    CARR-- who once worked in this area, of course pulling out every ID in his pocket, trying to show the police. But it wasn't about those IDs, brother. It's a black body. So the question that Cooper raised was why are you talking to me. Then they can evoke the protection of official policing.

  • 18:27:38

    SIMONSI see.

  • 18:27:39

    CARRI'm going to call the police. And then, of course, what we saw in the case of George Floyd is the official policing function. And in that case, what was feared could have happened in the Cooper situation did happen in the situation with Floyd, which is the control of the black body unto death by official policing.

  • 18:27:56

    CARRSo both of them are exercises in whiteness. One is kind of a deputy police function, and the other is the official policing function, which is state violence through maintaining order through the application of physical force.

  • 18:28:08

    SIMONSLet's get some more listener voices in here. Ella tweets to us. She says, "I protested on Friday. What I saw was very peaceful. Two questions. Number one, I saw --" and this one I'll throw to Gabe Bullard, our editor in the WAMU newsroom.

  • 18:28:21

    SIMONS"I saw many journalists taking close-up, identifiable photos of protesters. What steps can journalists take to report while protecting protesters and their identities?" Gabe?

  • 18:28:35

    BULLARDYeah, so the question, as far as not revealing a protester's --

  • 18:28:40

    SIMONSYeah --

  • 18:28:40

    BULLARD-- specific identity in some of our photos, or --

  • 18:28:41

    SIMONSExplain what we do to make sure that it's okay to post these photos, these images that they see across the papers, across our websites.

  • 18:28:49

    BULLARDYeah, I think we're all out in public, and we are documenting what's going on, and we're talking to people. Whenever we talk to someone, we try to get their name, we try to get their information. We let them know, who we are -- at least -- and when I'm out in the field, I'm very clearly wearing a press badge, marking myself as press to let people know that -- when I'm talking to them, I let them know I'm with WAMU. I'm here documenting this, may I talk to you. Ask for their name, ask for the spelling of their name, clearly record, clearly take notes, and let people know that I am a reporter when I'm out there.

  • 18:29:20

    SIMONSGabe, surely you saw what happened with Omar Jimenez from CNN. Are you concerned, being out reporting on these events?

  • 18:29:29

    BULLARDTo a degree. I'll say not -- yes, yes, to -- yes, to a degree. However, I'm --

  • 18:29:36

    SIMONSAnd we should be clear -- you are not a journalist of color, but --

  • 18:29:38

    BULLARDRight, that's the thing. Yeah, like, I'm white, and I do feel like there is -- that that -- you know, we see what has happened with journalists of color more often than with white journalists in these situations just going over the footage that we've seen coming in.

  • 18:29:54


  • 18:29:55

    BULLARDSo there is a danger there. There are journalists, who've been attacked, but I think whenever you see what's going on, journalists of color have been arrested in these situations. They've been, it looks like, targeted by law enforcement at times as well.

  • 18:30:10

    SIMONSYeah, it's definitely on the rise. Kymone, the second question from Ella is for you. She says, "Can you explain the bail situation in D.C.? How can we support protesters, who are arrested, financially?"

  • 18:30:23

    FREEMANWell, that's a great question, and I appreciate her asking and posing that. There's a bail for the Minneapolis that's been well advertised, but I don't know who's responsible for bailing out the protesters in D.C. I'm sure by tomorrow we will find, who that is and how to do that, and we will share that on all of our media outlets on We Act Radio tomorrow.

  • 18:30:45

    FREEMANAnd hopefully WAMU will be able to share it when they post this interview. I'm sorry I don't have that information in front of me, but hopefully you'll be able to do that.

  • 18:30:52


  • 18:30:53

    FREEMANAnd we also need to question the entire bail system in America as well, because it's obviously part of the injustice and the pressure on the poor people --

  • 18:31:01


  • 18:31:02

    FREEMAN-- in this country. But if I may, I wanna make sure that people understand that some of the things that -- because I don't wanna just throw our hands up and we're dealing with this white supremacist organization called the police and there's nothing we can do about it. There's many things we can do about it. Every year, in every city across this country, millions of dollars are paid out and awarded for police misconduct.

  • 18:31:20


  • 18:31:20

    FREEMANAnd that money comes out of taxpayers' money.

  • 18:31:23


  • 18:31:23

    FREEMANIf that money came out of those police departments' budgets, if the money came out of those police officers' salaries that was in question, I'm sure you'll see a change in behavior overnight. You ain't gotta love me, but we gotta find some way to reel in these ghost dogs.

  • 18:31:35

    FREEMANAnd that's what the FBI called white supremacists inside of law enforcement -- ghost dogs. So it's not a pejorative. How do we put a leash on rogue ghost dogs in this society at this time, and change what has historically been taking place?

  • 18:31:48

    SIMONSLet's hear from some more callers. Will is on the line. Will is in Bowie, Maryland. Hi, Will.

  • 18:31:53

    WILLHi, thank you for having me. Just taking the discussion just somewhere sidestepping a little bit, correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that most insurance doesn't cover acts of riot and civil uprising. It's just important to use your forum as an opportunity to tell everyone, to please tell everyone, to please let all the protesters know that when you're rioting the streets, and -- well, I should say when you're protesting and exercising your right, when you do happen to damage a car or when you see things on fire, you're not hurting insurance companies, you're hurting that business.

  • 18:32:30

    WILLLike, that business is not gonna recover from that. There's no insurance that's gonna pay -- correct me, again, if I'm wrong -- they don't pay out for rioting. And it's sad to see -- I'm a business owner, and it's sad to see -- there's a lot of these guys, like, they won't be able to recover from this.

  • 18:32:46


  • 18:32:47

    WILLAnd let's protest in a way that isn't harming our own people, yeah.

  • 18:32:51

    SIMONSYeah. Thanks for that, Will. Let's have our panel address your comment there, your question about covering acts of riots. Dr. Carr?

  • 18:33:01

    CARRWell, Sasha, we can say this. Here in the district, of course, we remember, again, going back to 1968, that almost a thousand businesses and maybe as much as $200 million in damage was done in the wake of the rebellions in the wake of Martin Luther King's assassination.

  • 18:33:17

    CARRAnd WAMU has covered and had the author of the book "Most of 14th Street is Gone" on to talk about how the district really did not recover until more recent years. Whether or not insurance covers folks, who will find their businesses destroyed or damaged as a result of these protests, one thing is clear.

  • 18:33:39

    CARRAs my brother Kymone said, there are a lot of elephants kind of walking around in the room, and one of them is this pandemic. We know that we have very vulnerable businesses now, just as a function of having been shut down for the better part of the last three months.

  • 18:33:52

    CARRAnd as a consequence, any additional stressors imposed by what is going on now might create a situation where, yes, those individual businesses may go out of business. But because of the booming market -- gentrification and the rising, you know, property values and costs -- we might see a transformation in this society that we certainly couldn't attribute primarily to what's going on in the street now. But we might see this as an accelerant which has been sprayed on the real fire, which is the district -- indeed, the country's -- structural flaws being exposed by this pandemic.

  • 18:34:28

    SIMONSDr. Carr, you mentioned Martin Luther King Jr. He said, "A riot is the language of the unheard." What is it that America has failed to hear? Now, how would you answer that question, Dr. Carr?

  • 18:34:40

    CARRWell, Dr. King -- one of the things that I think this country has failed to hear is Martin Luther King. It's almost as if he did not live the last five years of his life. When we read his last book, "Where Do We Go From Here, Chaos or Community," Dr. King is very clear in saying that the three evils that beset this society are capitalism, in many ways -- materialism, greed, militarism, which we see in terms of weaponized police force that Kymone has talked about, and racism.

  • 18:35:07

    CARRAnd we can certainly add sexism and those kind of structural inequalities. But what we have failed to hear is that structural inequality is baked into this society, and when you claim that you don't have resources for everyone to be housing secure, food secure, job secure, ultimately, to quote another contemporary of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, you have mixed the ingredients for an explosion.

  • 18:35:31

    CARRAnd Malcolm X says as long as you have the ingredients for an explosion, the potential for explosion remains. So when a George Floyd is killed, when a Sandra Bland is killed, or a Trayvon Martin is killed, these are just sparks that are being let off in a structurally unequal society, inequitable society, that has been mixed together.

  • 18:35:51

    CARRWhat we haven't heard is the fact that we are all part of a society that is teetering on the brink, and that is the thing, if we do not listen to it and then take some positive action, we are going to listen to it in terms of the result of not taking positive action, and that is perhaps even a structural collapse in this society.

  • 18:36:10

    SIMONSNow, before I jump back to the phone lines, I've gotta ask, because you talk about the responsibility of the people of society. What would you say, Dr. Carr, to the bystanders here, particularly white people, who aren't speaking up?

  • 18:36:22

    CARRWell, to people of all backgrounds, who are not speaking up, I think we can echo the words of Dr. King. Well, I'll say it this way -- there are no bystanders. And Dr. King would talk --

  • 18:36:32

    SIMONSHe said, "A time comes when silence -- there comes a time when silence is betrayal." I think that's what you're referring to.

  • 18:36:38

    CARRThat's exactly right, and the context for that quote, Sasha, which I'm glad you raised that quote, the context for that quote, of course, is Dr. King being confronted by black people, poor black people, in the wake of, among other things, the Watts rebellion of 1965, who, when he comes with a message of nonviolence, the response is, "How can you tell me to be nonviolent when they're sending my family members to Vietnam to kill people they've never seen?"

  • 18:37:01


  • 18:37:02

    CARRAt that point, Dr. King experiences a spiritual, an intellectual crisis, and has his very close collaborator, Vincent Harding, our friend Vincent Harding says in his book "Martin Luther King, the Inconvenient Hero," he says at that moment, Dr. King had a crisis of his own conscience, which compelled him to speak out against the war in Vietnam.

  • 18:37:21

    CARRThis is not the Martin Luther King that is remembered and quoted often today, but that quote comes from his confrontation with the United States government, which he calls --

  • 18:37:29


  • 18:37:30

    CARR-- "The greatest purveyor of violence in the world." And it made him extremely unpopular in white press, black press. And so for Dr. King, there is no choice. You're either complicit, or you're involved in making a change. So there are no bystanders. We're all, in fact, operating in this field of violence, and we have choices to make.

  • 18:37:49

    SIMONSIf you're just tuning in, we are talking with Greg Carr. He's the chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University. Also with us is Kymone Freeman, he's an activist and cofounder of We Act Radio here in D.C. Gabe Bullard is with us, he's an editor in the WAMU newsroom. We also have Jordan Pascale, a reporter in the WAMU newsroom.

  • 18:38:09

    SIMONSLet's jump to Arash. He's in Silver Spring and has been waiting on the line. Arash?

  • 18:38:14

    ARASHHi. I just wanted to say two things. My first comment is that I didn't participate in the protests, and the reason being that I was fearful for my safety and my life, because I am from Afghanistan, and I have a beard, and until 2015 I have been active in a lot of protests in Afghanistan against Taliban brutality and injustices. But in here, the reason I didn't protest and I feared for my life was because of something happens to me, by police especially, I would be just labeled as a terrorist, or somebody who does not belong here --

  • 18:39:03


  • 18:39:04

    ARASH-- or something like that.

  • 18:39:05


  • 18:39:06

    ARASHAnd I would not risk my life for such pain.

  • 18:39:09

    SIMONSYeah, that's a very valid concern.

  • 18:39:10

    ARASHBut in terms of protests against injustice towards African-Americans or black Americans and other colored people in this country, I would say that I haven't heard from anybody, and I haven't seen this, if there is any movement about this. Why don't we start targeting the police unions?

  • 18:39:45


  • 18:39:46

    ARASHThey are the ones who provide police force with unlimited legal resources --

  • 18:39:52


  • 18:39:53

    ARASH-- and unlimited financial resources when it comes the time for a police officer to face the music for their action.

  • 18:40:01

    SIMONSYeah. Let's get our panel to address that, Arash -- a number of things that you've brought up there. Kymone, he mentioned police unions. What can you add to that conversation? And also just thinking of the immigrant experience and the fear that he addressed, the reason that's keeping him away from protesting, even though he very much wants to support the cause.

  • 18:40:23

    FREEMANWell, there's also things you can do -- he can also contact his representatives. But touché on the all-powerful police union. We have a top five list on putting a leash on rogue killer cops in America, and it's posted on our social media platforms.

  • 18:40:41

    FREEMANNumber five is an engaged community input into the city negotiations with those all-powerful police unions for any future contracts they have with the city. Again, we are left out of those conversations, but you know, as they always say, if you're not at the table, you're on the menu.

  • 18:40:55

    FREEMANAnd they have been eating us for a long time, so we need to make sure that we engage the community input into city negotiations with these all-powerful police unions for any future contracts. That would be a great place to start. But again, he can contact his representatives --

  • 18:41:09


  • 18:41:10

    FREEMAN-- and have his input shared. Because every time you send an email, every time you make a phone call, that is representative of hundreds of people's positions on that issue. And I wanted to go back to one of your previous callers, who was making concerns about his -- his callous concerns, I would actually say, in regards to property.

  • 18:41:28

    FREEMANI would say that, again, we're talking about what the protesters are doing, but we're ignoring what the police are doing. The police have been doing civil asset forfeiture for decades, taking people's property, and they never bounce back from that. And when they serve these warrants, they go into people's houses and they destroy their property, and many people never bounce back from that.

  • 18:41:46


  • 18:41:47

    FREEMANWhen they get charges, even though they're innocent, the bail is outrageous, and they never bounce back from that. So I think the onus still being put on the people, who are responding to oppression, but not addressing the oppressor, is insulting.

  • 18:41:59

    SIMONSNow, Kymone, I wanted to get your feedback here on an email from Mike. Mike emails us from Haymarket, Virginia. He called, he couldn't stay on the air. He says, "I have seen online one video from Oregon where some white," and he put it in a quote, "hoodlums were trying to break windows while black protesters were stopping them."

  • 18:42:18

    SIMONS"I also read online that there are white supremacists planning on infiltrating the protests. I'm curious whether there's any evidence of that." And I was gonna ask you that as well, about the so-called "outside agitators." Any truth to that, Kymone?

  • 18:42:33

    FREEMANYeah, there's been documentation -- well, first let me go back and say that when we -- we did two tours of duty in Ferguson, and we personally witnessed police officers starting fires with their flash grenades. And when we reported that, no one believed us.

  • 18:42:47

    FREEMANWe talked to several mainstream media outlets at the time, and no one took that story seriously. But now we have evidence where one police officer, I believe he's from St. Paul, was documented of breaking windows at an AutoZone that started many of the riots there in Minneapolis.

  • 18:43:08

    FREEMANHe's yet to have been brought to justice or identified. So yes, I'll submit to you some of these white supremacists are actually police officers, who are agent provocateurs who are doing this, so that they can have the sentiment of the white population, the larger white population. "See what these people are doing, see what those people are doing," as opposed to the issue that got them out there in the first place.

  • 18:43:31

    SIMONSLet's get Maurice in here. Maurice is calling us from D.C. Hi, Maurice.

  • 18:43:35

    MAURICEOur people are still in jeopardy with COVID-19, and we have to focus on that. We have to strategize to say how -- or to express how we need to be on the street, but be safe at the same time. So we do have to do this work, this movement work, protesting and fighting for our rights, while remaining safe. So I wanna make sure that that, too, is also a priority.

  • 18:43:57

    SIMONSThank you, Maurice, appreciate your call. Jordan Pascale, you're still with us, reporter from the WAMU newsroom. You are monitoring social media. Tell us, what are you seeing from city officials on Twitter?

  • 18:44:09

    PASCALEWell, not a lot about the protest itself right now.

  • 18:44:12


  • 18:44:13

    PASCALEEarlier today, John Falcicchio, who's Mayor Bowser's chief of staff and deputy mayor, was sharing photos of meeting with businesses in the area that were harmed, and he says that we'll build back -- we will build it back better. City officials have asked for safe and peaceful protests, which is what we've seen so far tonight, but they haven't really said too much in praise of that so far.

  • 18:44:35


  • 18:44:36

    PASCALEOne particular issue on social media that's sparking a lot of anger and controversy right now is transportation. The district Department of Transportation asked scooter companies to pull all the rentable electric scooters from the streets after they were, quote, "improperly used" last night. Not exactly clear what that was. I did see one scooter outside a smashed business. DDOT also locked down Capital Bikeshare --

  • 18:44:58


  • 18:44:59

    PASCALE-- at the request of law enforcement, so many say they were gonna use those two services to get to the protests tonight.

  • 18:45:04

    SIMONSMm-hmm. Thank you for that update, Jordan Pascale. Before we go, Dr. Carr, you had a conversation earlier today with Nick Cannon. You both were speaking about how young people seem to be reaching for possibility here of creating a new country. Please elaborate on that. In what ways are these protests giving us a sense of what's possible?

  • 18:45:26

    CARRWell, very quickly, Sasha, yeah, Nick is my friend, he was my former student. He just graduated from Howard. And he was on the corner of 38th and Chicago there where George Floyd was killed yesterday, and he's back in L.A. now.

  • 18:45:37

    CARRNick and I were talking about the fact that what he experienced was this enthusiasm in the streets. There are a lot of strata in the street. We got law enforcement, but we also have white folks, who could be -- they're allies, Antifa, white nationalists, the (unintelligible) .

  • 18:45:50

    CARRAnd as Kymone said, you got agitators, plant spies. We know that from our history. But what Nick said is that, you know, in the street, there was a sense of the possible. And it was multiracial, it was very -- and a lot of young people out there.

  • 18:46:04

    CARRAnd in the moment of resistance, in the moment of protest, there was a glimpse of the world that is possible. And so he went back to L.A. to spread that word. I've seen J. Cole out in North Carolina. We see -- and I think there's a spirit emerging that we've seen emerge before.

  • 18:46:19

    CARRWe've seen it in the 1960s and '70s. We've seen it in the 1930s and '40s, in the anti-lynching movement. And I think young people, some young people, are experiencing that enthusiasm, and I expect that the reporters have probably seen some of that as well out on the street.

  • 18:46:32

    SIMONSAbsolutely. Do you think it'll be different this time?

  • 18:46:34

    CARRWell, I think it has no choice. The pandemic is going to restructure the society we live in, and we've reached a tipping point in this society. And folks who have certain strong-held beliefs in maintaining this kind of radical inequality have dropped all pretenses that it was about anything other than that.

  • 18:46:49

    CARRBut what they don't realize is that they don't have the numbers, and if we can reach a critical mass of people willing to confront that type of structural inequality, I don't see --

  • 18:46:57


  • 18:46:58

    FREEMAN-- how it's possible for us to go back. The only other thing I would say is this doesn't go back to normal tomorrow.

  • 18:47:01

    SIMONSActually, we've gotta -- we're out of time, Dr. Carr. I'm so sorry. Dr. Carr is the chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University. Also with us was Kymone Freeman, an activist and cofounder of We Act Radio. More of this tomorrow on the Kojo Nnamdi Show. I'm Sasha-Ann Simons.

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