But tensions also flared at multiple flash points during the day, as protesters faced an even larger contingent of federal law enforcement authorities than on Monday. Some turbulent gatherings Tuesday were hit with pepper spray and other shows of force as armored vehicles blocked city streets.
As the 7 p.m. curfew passed, protesters remained peaceful and authorities did not take any action. But by nightfall, many families had left and the crowd had thinned to a much younger group.
That increased tensions, and some began throwing water bottles and shaking fences. As helicopters swirled overhead and the number of federal officers swelled, other protesters tried to stop the agitators, yelling “Peaceful protest! Peaceful protest!”
Amid the shouting, there were moments of grace. On U Street, a group passed Lee’s Flower Shop, its glass windows still exposed. A sign had been taped to the window: “100 percent black owned business,” it said. But a group of protesters moving through downtown didn’t seem interested in the looting and destruction some others brought on previous nights. They had a different goal in mind. “Walk with us,” they chanted.
Many protesters said they came out because of what happened Monday, when hundreds of peaceful demonstrators were forcefully cleared from Lafayette Square — one of the country’s most symbolic places of protest — by federal forces at the behest of Attorney General William P. Barr. Many were struck with pepper balls, others pushed and hit.
“You disgrace the Constitution,” someone screamed at federal forces Tuesday evening.
“Show us that you’re with us,” a group of protesters yelled, asking officers to take a knee. The officers stood up straight and did not comply.
“Shame, shame shame,” the demonstrators shouted.
At the outset of Tuesday’s protests, hundreds of demonstrators found a newly erected black chain-link fence around Lafayette Square, where protesters were removed Monday evening shortly before President Trump walked through the area on his way to St. John’s Church, holding up a Bible for cameras.
Outside the fence, protesters knelt with fists and signs raised, and chanted at a small cluster of federal police in the middle of the park. The officers’ short-sleeved blue shirts and bulletproof vests were a departure from the riot gear that protesters encountered on previous days.
“Don’t do what you did last night,” a protester yelled through the tall black fence.
The closed park was just one of many signs of tightening by federal forces. Armored vehicles blocked streets around the White House as scores of federal law enforcement officers patrolled on foot. Meanwhile, city police patrolled neighborhoods that had seen five straight nights of vandalism, fires and looting — all of which prompted the president to order a crackdown.
The protests in Washington were among dozens that continued across the nation. One of the largest peaceful demonstrations Tuesday was in Houston, Floyd’s hometown. About 25,000 marchers showed up, including the city’s mayor, Floyd’s childhood friends and a group of black cowboys on horseback, according to journalists on the scene.