Jun 2, 2020
Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser Press Conference Transcript June 2
Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser held a June 2 press conference, one day after protestors were cleared from the front of the White House for a Donald Trump photo op at a church. She also addressed ongoing protests in the city.
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Mayor Muriel Bowser: (00:00)
… demonstrate that our fight for statehood is more than about getting two senators, but it’s also about our right as tax-paying Americans to autonomy and the autonomy that can only be fully achieved with statehood. Yesterday, I imposed a curfew at 7:00 PM. About 25 minutes before that curfew, we note, as many people around the country noted, that protesters in front of the White House were dispersed using some form of munitions.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (00:42)
DC police throughout the night enforced a curfew. And last night, I think the chief will confirm this number, a number of people were arrested in violation of that protest. I want to ask the Chief of Police Peter Newsham to come up and describe our response last night, and then we could take a few questions.
Peter Newsham: (01:11)
Thank you, Mayor Bowser, and thank you again for your continued leadership on these very difficult times. I’m Peter Newsham. I’m the Chief of Police for the Metropolitan Police Department. Last night marked our fourth day of demonstration activity right here in Washington DC related to the senseless death of George Floyd. Yesterday began with two separate groups at approximately 3:00, one in Lafayette Square and the other in the vicinity of the US Capitol. Both groups assembled peacefully at these locations.
Peter Newsham: (01:47)
At around 6:30, the group at Lafayette Plaza was alerted by federal law enforcement officers who gave warnings for them to disperse. I had received prior to that, just before that, that there would be a presidential movement in the area. The Metropolitan Police Department did not participate in that movement. As you all know, there was a curfew that was initiated yesterday between 7:00 PM and 6:00 AM.
Peter Newsham: (02:23)
The next incident of significance was at around 7:20 PM in the area of 17th and I Street. Fifty-four persons were arrested, primarily for being in violation of the curfew. At around 9:00 PM, in the vicinity of 9:00 PM, there was a large group of protesters that was up in our Northwest area of the city. In the 2400 block of 14th Street Northwest, we started to see behavior that was consistent with the behavior that preceded the very violent activity that we had on the two nights before. We actually had a Metropolitan Police Department that was set on fire. We were able to get that group stopped in the 1400 block of Swann Street, Northwest, where we made a significant arrest of multiple folks who were in violation of the curfew. There was a homeowner in the block, there was a lot of Twitter activity, social media activity about this, and I know there will be questions that I can answer later, who allowed a number of the people who were going to be arrested into his home. Those people ultimately were not arrested. My understanding is Metropolitan Police Department officers were in constant communication with that homeowner throughout the evening. So just getting back to the area where the majority of the arrests were made, where we had 54 arrests down at 17th and I, 194 arrests in the area of Swann Street. Later on in the evening, we had another group of about 300 or so that was there in the area of the police headquarters or Judiciary Square. During that instance, they were becoming very aggressive. Police officers had to utilize munitions to disperse that group. Ultimately, they were able to successfully disperse that group.
Peter Newsham: (04:39)
The amount of damage that we had and the injury to police officers was significantly less than the prior two evenings. We had two officers injured. Those injuries were non-life threatening, where the officers were treated. We had the one police car that was set on fire. There are some properties across the city where there was some destruction of property, some glass damage, and I’m sure there was some destruction of property with regards to graffiti.
Peter Newsham: (05:12)
At the end of the process, we had over 300 arrests. The majority of the arrests were at those two locations. Then we had several other arrests across the city. We will be giving a specific details with regards to who was arrested. As soon as we get that information, we’ll get it out to you. The arrests were primarily for these three categories of offenses. A violation of the curfew was the majority of the arrests. We also had arrests for burglary and we had arrests for rioting.
Peter Newsham: (05:50)
I want to again mention the fact that we are working right now with our investigative team to compile images of anybody that was in our city over the past three or four nights who was involved in destruction of property or the throwing of missiles and the hurting of people. We will be releasing those images. We’re going to ask the community to assist us with identifying those folks so that they can be held accountable.
Peter Newsham: (06:17)
With that being said, we can take any questions I believe, Mayor, that anyone has.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (06:24)
Yes. Yes, Paul?
Speaker 1: (06:26)
Chief, do you who gave the order to fire on those protesters last night?
Peter Newsham: (06:30)
What order are you talking about?
Speaker 1: (06:31)
Somebody gave the officers in Lafayette Park the order to use munitions against peaceful protestors.
Peter Newsham: (06:37)
Are you talking about the presidential movement?
Speaker 1: (06:40)
Peter Newsham: (06:41)
The presidential movement was handled by federal resources. I was told of the movement, it was an unplanned movement, shortly before it occurred. The Metropolitan Police Department did not participate. So it would be out of turn for me to speak about who, what, where and how munitions were deployed.
Speaker 1: (07:05)
Do you [crosstalk 00:07:06] have an opinion on the fact that those munitions were deployed against protestors?
Peter Newsham: (07:10)
I don’t know the circumstances. So as I gather more detail, I may be able to develop an opinion on that.
Speaker 1: (07:16)
Do you have a comment on what happened there last night, Mayor?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (07:22)
From what I could see, just like you all could see, I didn’t see any provocation that would warrant the deployment of munitions, and especially for the purpose of moving the president across the street.
Speaker 1: (07:37)
I know last night at a tweet, you called it shameful. Did you think that overnight, maybe a stronger word perhaps?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (07:45)
I said what I said.
Speaker 1: (07:47)
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (07:47)
I stand behind it. Yep.
Chief, would somebody define munitions and tell us exactly what type of munitions were deployed either by your department or what you know was deployed during the movement?
Peter Newsham: (07:59)
So I can only talk for my department, and this is a very fluid activity. So any time we deploy munitions, our police officers are required to report that and we investigate that. Our Internal Affairs division will go back and they will investigate every deployment that we had.
Peter Newsham: (08:18)
What we had used last night and the time that we … I can’t say that we didn’t use pepper spray at other points, because when you’re making arrests of that nature, if anybody rushes the line, an officer may utilize a pepper spray to control that line. But the only incident that I believe that we deployed sting balls and OC spray and CS spray was when we were dealing with that last group of 300 protesters that was in the vicinity of Judiciary Square.
And then, Chief, could you talk about … Your officers did play a role, an active role, an aggressive role in the movement of the President. They cleared the intersection at 16th and I, while the President was at Saint John’s Church. Your bicycle officers, dozens of them, moved all the protesters forcibly. In fact, one protestor punched an officer during that movement and was arrested.
Peter Newsham: (09:17)
I don’t know what you’re talking about with regards to that, Mark. I can tell you that the way that generally the operation worked for the Metropolitan Police Department. At about 6:30, almost 6:30 on the dot, well, preceding this, the Mayor and I went out and made it abundantly clear that there would be a curfew here in the District of Columbia starting at 7:00 PM. And I think that was widely known.
Peter Newsham: (09:43)
There was an alert that was sent to all cell phones in the area that there would be a curfew beginning tonight or last night at 7:00 PM, and that if you were out past 7:00 PM, you could be subject to arrest. So that was to give folks a fair warning. If you had an essential activity or if you had to vote or if you were a member of the media, it did not apply to you. So we wanted to make it abundantly clear to folks.
Peter Newsham: (10:10)
At 6:30 PM last night, in addition to those warnings that were given to the public, we had announced on our PA systems to the group that was gathered down at Lafayette Park that there was a curfew in effect and they could be subject to arrest. At that point, some of the groups began to march around the city. The group that was stopped at 17th and I Street was one of those groups that was in violation of the curfew.
Peter Newsham: (10:40)
So that stop at 17th and I was not related to the presidential movement.
Right. But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about before 7:00, while the president was at Saint John’s, at 16th and I. The federal law enforcement officers, Park police, Arlington police, DC National Guard had moved the protestors down 16th street, away from Lafayette Square. They got to I Street, and that’s where the federal entities made their stand, made their permit, right at 16th and I.
Peter Newsham: (11:09)
At that point [crosstalk 00:11:12].
Peter Newsham: (11:11)
So that’s away from Saint John’s, significantly away from Saint John’s, is what you’re saying.
It’s a walk away.
Peter Newsham: (11:17)
Well, that’s [crosstalk 00:11:17]. In an operation like that, it’s not in the vicinity of the President. So your insinuation that somehow the Metropolitan Police Department was involved in the movement of the president, I think, is inaccurate. I’ll go back and look at our operation to ensure that that was the case.
So you’re not aware that your officers moved protesters, forcibly moved protesters. One of those protestors punched one of your officers. You’re not aware of any of that happening?
Peter Newsham: (11:40)
I don’t have that information, but I can tell you this. We were not involved in the movement of the President, the unplanned movement of the President. Yes?
Speaker 2: (11:51)
Thank you, Chief. You said that the DC police department did not participate in the federal action yesterday around the White House in Lafayette park. So had you been asked to? You said you only learned of it shortly before it happened. Had you been asked to participate or did you just not know about it?
Peter Newsham: (12:08)
So prior to the event, we had drawn clear areas of responsibility with our federal partners. That area down there, right to the north of Lafayette Square, was a federal responsibility.
Speaker 2: (12:23)
If I could follow up on that, today, the Secret Service has closed several District of Columbia streets, streets that you normally patrol. Under what authority does the Secret Service have to close, and maybe the Mayor wants to respond to it, to close city streets that we would normally otherwise use, except for this police action by the White House?
Peter Newsham: (12:45)
The Secret Service, as you know, has the authority to move the President around the United States. And I know that there is a presidential movement under foot right now. And sometimes, they have to close streets in order to make those movements.
Speaker 2: (12:56)
Mayor, may I ask you a question?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (13:00)
Speaker 2: (13:00)
You have been quite critical of what the White House and the-
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (13:03)
You have been quite critical of what the White House and the President, the federal people have done, but you’re also aware of the district’s 1973 Home Rule Act, where the president, with the stroke of a pen, could essentially take control of the DC Police Department.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (13:17)
Not exactly right.
I said essentially. [crosstalk 00:13:21]
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (13:21)
Well, kind of essentially. I would regard that as a affront, to even our limited home rule in the safety of the District of Columbia. Absolutely.
Have you gotten any indication that the White House is considering doing that, and that prompted maybe your press conference at five o’clock yesterday?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (13:45)
Let me just say this, and Tom you know that I have a lot of conversations on behalf of the residents of the District of Columbia. Some of them I can discuss fully, and some I will give you the gist of. It’s this, I think that you heard the President yesterday, that he wanted to show a force in DC, and we know that they examined a lot of ways to do that.
Are you aware of the Episcopal Bishop, who on several occasions now has denounced what the President did by using St John’s as a photo op waving a Bible around? Do you have any personal reaction to that?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (14:33)
I heard her remarks on one of the morning shows today. Our office, and in fact, I wanted to reach her yesterday. I didn’t get a chance to, so I will try to reach her today. I toured St. John’s yesterday, as you know, as far in as we could get in to the fire damage. We are grateful that our DC fire and EMS got to the church and was able to extinguish the fire with relatively light damage to a basement area outside of the main sanctuary of the church. So we’re happy that that happened. We don’t want to see any destruction or arson, graffiti, smashing, looting in our city, and the church was defaced and we think that’s a terrible thing. I appreciated the Bishop’s comments that she wasn’t involved in that, and was kind of appalled as the church being used as a backdrop.
Speaker 3: (15:41)
So just getting into the issue of police tactics here, and this could go to the chief or could go to the mayor. What happened [inaudible 00:15:47] saying that there was an order to disperse, but general police practices in the district is multiple orders disperse, not just one. And apparently protestors down there said they couldn’t hear it. So there’s that issue. And then there was video of helicopters coming pretty close to the ground, scattered people with sound and wind. There’s concerns that National Guardsmen could be armed. I mean, this is the use of military resources in the district against peaceful protestors, who are violating curfew, true. But are you concerned that tactics by non local police officers could escalate and put DC residents at risk?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (16:22)
As we mentioned, we are concerned, but we become concerned about any police or non policing force in the district that doesn’t share our values and is not accountable to the chief of police or to me. Having said that, they’re federal partners that we work with all the time and whose assistance we did welcome. And that were police, FBI police, DEA police that have supported us in various operations, including demonstrations, who were with us for a couple of nights during this response. I’m going to ask the chief to speak about arming the National Guard. While we asked for the National Guard’s assistance on checkpoints so to speak, around our perimeter, to manage flow of traffic in and out and to manage that, we did not and do not request a armed guard for any purpose in the District of Columbia. Yes?
Speaker 4: (17:30)
The President’s threat of using military Corps combined with the use of helicopters buzzing the crowds, do you fear that that strong arm message is going to inflame rather than calm the protests?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (17:49)
This is what I hope, and I know, and what we observed last night. What we observed last night is protesters largely complying with the curfew. And we’re going to implore them to comply with the curfew again. The curfew is 7:00 PM and that doesn’t mean you’re leaving at 7:00 PM. That means you’re off the street at 7:00 PM. And it’s very important that everybody complies with the curfew. There are exceptions. If you are essential, if you’re working, if you’re voting, you are able to do all of those things, but we’re asking people to comply with the curfew. Yes.
Speaker 5: (18:33)
Mayor Bowser, what did the federal government tell you about the options for increasing and showing force in DC?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (18:43)
I was told what … First of all, I heard what you all heard about the President saying that he wanted all manner of civilian and military might deployed across the country and the district. So we all heard that ominous warning. I later was told that they would be seeking, and we heard from jurisdictions nearby, that they were seeking National Guard support, possibly Army support and Federal police from other federal entities.
Speaker 5: (19:24)
Did you push back on any of these options?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (19:26)
Absolutely. We don’t want the armed National Guard, armed military, and we don’t want any of those things on DC streets. Federal assets and monuments and memorials are appropriate for federal assets. I already mentioned the Federal police who we have worked with and who are helpful to us, from the FBI and DEA, that have been helpful to us in establishing parameters during this response. Yes?
Speaker 6: (19:58)
[crosstalk 00:19:58] Mayor Bowser. Who have you reached out to at the federal government?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (20:03)
As I mentioned already, [inaudible 00:00:20:07], we have had a flurry of conversations with our federal folks in the White House, main justice and involving the National Guard. Yes?
Speaker 7: (20:20)
Given that people are clearly scared of police brutality, police abuse, do you have concerns that the curfew and they are starting an hour before the polls close, will suppress voters? And do you have plans to extend it to beyond, to start at 8:00 PM?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (20:35)
Our curfew will begin today, as mentioned in my mayor’s order at 7:00 PM through 6:00 AM tomorrow. And you asked me if we have concerns. We know that people have been voting in this primary, which is today, since May 22nd. They know the hours, they have 22 voting locations all across the District of Columbia that they can go to and polls are open until 8:00 PM. And you won’t have any problems going to vote anywhere in the District of Columbia through 8:00 PM today.
Speaker 7: (21:11)
You aren’t concerned about the voters feeling scared to go and vote?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (21:15)
I’m not concerned about voters being scared right now, because they can vote right now or any time today.
Speaker 8: (21:25)
Are the federal authorities and National Guard aware of the fact that people are voting, so the citizens don’t have to explain what they’re doing?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (21:34)
The federal authorities and National Guard, and we can make people aware of voting, but I don’t expect that that will be an issue. Yes?
Speaker 9: (21:47)
Mayor, were you aware of the Arlington police were in the city last night, assisting? And secondly, the County government there put out a statement saying that they pulled their officers out of the city based on what had happened in Lafayette park. Do you have a comment on that?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (22:03)
Well, I wasn’t aware that they were here. I can tell you that we didn’t request mutual assistance. I saw a tweet from them, I think last night, saying that the mutual assistance process was abused. And I want to make very clear that we didn’t request mutual assistance. And for those not familiar with the mutual assistance process, sometimes, especially when we have large scale events, you are probably most familiar when we do the inauguration and have to police that, we put a mutual assistance call out, not just to this region, but very widely, to get support for a very large scale event. So it is not unusual for us to call on our neighbors to assist, but we did not make a mutual assistance call to any police department or any state National Guard.
Speaker 9: (23:02)
Do you have a comment on the fact that they pulled their officers out because of what happened?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (23:07)
Well, I might suggest that their officers shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Yes?
Speaker 10: (23:14)
Chief, could you talk about what exactly happened on Swan street? I mean, we all saw, beyond the people that got into the house, folks kind of hemmed in by officers on both sides of a relatively narrow street. Were there negotiations to let them out? [inaudible 00:23:28] to get them to go home? Why keep them kind of locked in, in that area for that long?
So on Swan street, I think I tried to describe this when I began, we had what was an indication of an escalation of potential violence in the city. We had a large group that was moving in violation of the curfew. Our approach to these circumstances, we have somebody breaking the law in a large group, we try to get them arrested as safely and as respectfully as we can. I think there was a lot of misinformation after some of the folks that could have potentially been arrested, went into the home. I think that there was a lot of misinformation that was put out that raised a lot of concerns. I had multiple conversations during the event, after the event, into early this morning with the mayor, with my folks that were on the scene. And I can say that some of the information that was put out on Twitter and other social media platforms was completely inaccurate, at least from what we saw.
But of course, whenever you have those type of allegations, we’ll go back and take a very, very close look to ensure that the police were respectful and responsible, professional and constitutional in conducting those arrests. Every indication that I had is when the arrests were being effectuated, there was no resistance by anybody that was being arrested. But can I just talk a little bit about the arming of the National Guard? That is something that is exclusively within the authority of the President of the United States. I am very well aware, from multiple conversations with the mayor, of our stance here in the District of Columbia. We made it known at every meeting with regards to this event, that we did not want the National Guard to be armed.
Speaker 11: (25:28)
The White House cordoned off by the secret service. You have another night of protests coming. Do you have any indication of where you think protests might gather? I know you probably don’t want to say publicly, but are you prepared, given the White House taken away as an object of protest, that we could have more trouble elsewhere in the city tonight?
Well this is very fluid. We never know exactly where they’re going to go. We’re scouring social media to get some sense. As I have mentioned before, the President is moving today, that may be where …
Chief Newsham: (26:03)
Is moving today. That may be where protesters may gather. I think if the last four days is any indication, I think there’s a strong likelihood that we will have protesters again, down in and around the White House. And then we will be prepared, we’ll be fully activated to respond. I think the other thing that I think that I sensed from your questions, the arrests that the Metropolitan Police Department made were all after multiple warnings regarding a curfew that we were having in this city. And the arrests were essentially to prevent the extreme violence and destruction, that I know was heartbreaking to everybody in this room, that had occurred the two preceding nights.
Chief Newsham: (26:51)
That was a very difficult decision. I have seen the Mayor struggle with that decision, to negatively impact the people who live and visit the District of Columbia. But that decision was made to not break our hearts again last night, to see the violence, and the destruction and the injury that we saw. So, I guess when you’re the Mayor of the District of Columbia, you have to make difficult decisions. And so, I was very proud of her to choose public safety and to prevent violence over some inconvenience to our folks, and hopefully we can get past this sooner rather than later.
Could you clarify some numbers you gave. You said initially 54 were arrested for curfew violations, and then you gave another number, one [crosstalk 00:27:43]-
Chief Newsham: (27:43)
So we had 54 that were at the 17th and I location. We had close to 200 up there in the 14, 1500 block of Swan Street. And then in multiple locations throughout the city, we exceeded 300 arrests.
For curfew violation?
Chief Newsham: (28:02)
The three charges that we have primarily, most of them are curfew. We had some burglary and we had rioting arrests.
More than 300, total?
Chief Newsham: (28:11)
We’re over 300, for sure.
Chief Newsham: (28:13)
Speaker 12: (28:13)
Is it over five … I thought … 54 [crosstalk 00:02:19].
Chief Newsham: (28:18)
We’re talking about just from last night’s events.
Just last night [crosstalk 00:02:22].
Chief Newsham: (28:22)
Were over 300. Yep.
Tell us the logistics of… Are those [crosstalk 00:02:28].
Chief Newsham: (28:27)
So, Mark, if this helps I want to say, if my memory serves me correctly, the first night that we had arrest was 18, the second night we had arrest was 88, and then we’re over 300 last night.
And so, where are these people held? What is the process? Because we know with COVID, you guys have been trying not to incarcerate, put people into jail or into holding cells. So what is the process with these people who have been arrested over the past three days? Where are they held? How long are they held? Can you help us out with that?
Chief Newsham: (28:58)
So we do the best we can. Arresting large numbers of people is not something that we do on a daily basis. It’s something that we do prepare for. We stand up a team of officers to facilitate what’s called mass arrest processing. It never goes as well as planned, because there are IT issues and the like that you have to deal with. There’s logistical issues with moving the folks. There’s issues with ensuring that the folks that have been stopped and placed under arrest are treated respectfully and professionally. And we do all of those things and we give thought to all of those issues. And really our number one goal when we process a large group like that, is to get them in and out of police custody as quickly as possible.
Speaker 13: (29:47)
Chief, I was told the US Attorney’s Office, and I can’t confirm this, but the US Attorney’s Office has now processed, drop the charges because the people arrested Friday, Saturday. Are you aware of that to any action?
Chief Newsham: (30:00)
I think that there will be, when we’re done with this operational period, there’ll be a lot of discussions about that issue. And so I can’t really comment on that right now. I don’t know exactly how many cases were no papered or under what circumstances.
Speaker 13: (30:15)
You are aware there were some?
Chief Newsham: (30:16)
There could very well be. And when a case is now papered, that does not necessarily mean it’s the end of the prosecutors… They could go back and they may want video, they may want additional evidence. And that’s where our investigative efforts will begin.
Just one quick question on the timeline of yesterday. How does it make you feel that you were given such little warning prior to the presidential movement that was unplanned? There’s typically a good relationship with [crosstalk 00:04:43].
Chief Newsham: (30:44)
That’s not unusual for… Yeah. That’s not unusual for unplanned presidential movements here in the city. The President and the Vice President will often make unplanned moves and they will notify us when the… Because it’s unplanned. The President sometimes has to respond to things that are outside of his schedule and our federal partners will notify us and let us know. So that was not unusual at all.
Are you concerned at all that that damages the relationship now that people on the streets have with police, that it changes the optics that [crosstalk 00:05:16].
Chief Newsham: (31:16)
Just the fact that the use of force was so [crosstalk 00:05:21].
Chief Newsham: (31:21)
Yeah I’m concerned whenever there’s a police action that paints police officers in a negative light, because what folks will do is they will attribute that to all of us. So yes, I would say whenever a police action is done in a way that people… It’s either true or perceived to be a negative by the police. That concerns me personally.
Are you able to channel that back to the federal authorities who may have been more involved in that action yesterday?
Chief Newsham: (31:50)
I would like to have more information on what the thought process was on the action before I comment. And that’s just the nature of me. I think the Mayor is more in tuned to her gut reaction. I want to get a little bit more information. And of course, if I saw something that I thought was untoward, I would talk to my federal partners about it.
Mayor, do you have a reaction to that?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (32:11)
Well, I’ve already talked about that, but I will say this and I’ve tried to make this distinction and hopefully I’ve done it well. But let me say, again, that the Metropolitan Police Department, the Secret Service and the Park Police work together all the time, dozens of times in Lafayette Park in many more demonstrations and presentations. So I want us all to be careful about painting that relationship negatively or just unmask those law enforcement agencies. Because after it’s all said and done and all over us are gone. We’re going to have MPD and Park Police and Secret Service are going to be working together in our city.
So beyond treating it shameful, how do you channel that? How do you get that back to those who may have been involved in the decision making there to say, “This is not okay in the District, et cetera.”
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (33:08)
We will have ongoing conversations. We will continue… But right now, at hand, we have a response and we have an emergency response in the District and we’re going to continue to work with all of the federal agencies who are here. We’re going to continue to let the people know who are responsible for these decisions, that how wrong we think it is and how it doesn’t make us safer.
Okay. Mayor Bowser, what worries you more? Is it the prospect of more of property damage or is it the prospect of more clashes as a result of federal forces ramping up in DC?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (33:49)
They all worry me. I don’t have the luxury of not being worried about the safety and protection of every aspect of the District of Columbia. Our police community relations, people’s first right to demonstrate peaceably in the District of Columbia, mayhem in the District of Columbia, including smashing windows and looting. I don’t have the luxury of picking the one that I want to deal with. I have to deal with them all. Yes.
Speaker 14: (34:19)
Mayor Bowser, did the president’s ominous message, as you described it, make matters worse? Is there something you can say today that would calm him down?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (34:34)
I can say this. I don’t think that the military should be used on the streets of American cities against Americans. And I definitely don’t think it should be done for show.
Speaker 15: (34:55)
Chief Newsham, could you explain the role of unified command? What triggers it, what law enforcement agent… Who’s in charge of the top making the decisions?
Chief Newsham: (35:06)
Sure. I talked about that in great detail, I want to say, when we discussed operations on Saturday. Whenever you establish unified command, you bring in decision makers from the agencies that are involved in Washington, DC, those agencies have specific and inconsistent jurisdictions. And the idea behind unified command is to come up with a collective decision.
Speaker 15: (35:32)
What triggers establishing unified command?
Chief Newsham: (35:35)
When you’re going to have an operation that involves multiple agencies.
Speaker 15: (35:40)
Aren’t there multiple agencies in the city right now?
Chief Newsham: (35:42)
There are. We have a number of command posts set up throughout the city where federal and local partners can communicate, including our JOC at Police Headquarters.
Speaker 16: (35:53)
Chief, three things real quick. Were there any charges for wearing a mask last night?
Chief Newsham: (36:01)
Not that I’m aware of. I can’t… For wearing a mask?
Speaker 16: (36:05)
Chief Newsham: (36:05)
So I think there’s some confusion about that charge. In the District of Columbia wearing a mask and certainly wearing a mask to protect yourself from COVID is not illegal. So the only time that wearing a mask is illegal is if you place a mask on with the intent to commit a crime. So I can’t remember the last time we made an arrest like that, but I don’t think there would be one last night.
Speaker 16: (36:29)
Secondly, was there any pepper spray deployed inside one of those residences last night on Swan Street?
Chief Newsham: (36:34)
I’ve asked that question multiple times. We are going to probably have multiple body worn cameras that we are going to have to review before I can say with a 100% certainty, but from the command officials that were on the scene, the answer to your question is no.
Speaker 16: (36:51)
Thirdly, where were the munitions used last night?
Chief Newsham: (36:54)
In any area around judiciary… Our munitions in the area around judiciary.
Speaker 16: (36:58)
That was pepper balls, and pepper spray?
Chief Newsham: (37:01)
Pepper spray, CS gas was used and sting balls. There may have been other deployments, as I indicated earlier, of pepper spray and potentially sting balls. I don’t have all of that in front of me right now. But if it was, it was on a very limited nature.
Speaker 16: (37:21)
And that was to disperse the crowd that was…
Chief Newsham: (37:24)
When we are forming lines to make arrests of multiple individuals, sometimes there are skirmishes on those lines and pepper spray can be deployed in those instances to push folks back. But I heard, particularly with the arrest, I heard over the radio as I was monitoring that the command official was telling officers not to deploy munitions because once the group was closed in, he was telling them because they have nowhere to escape and he thought it would be unsafe, which was a very good call by that command official.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (38:00)
May I just add Chief, and I don’t know if this was the case last night, but it was certainly the case during our response that some of the bangs or pops heard are the demonstrators that have fireworks and other things that have been used throughout this weekend. And I know sometimes I was reading along the people say, “I heard a bang. I heard a pop.” And that’s not necessarily a police munition. [inaudible 00:00:38:32] Yes, sir.
Speaker 17: (38:35)
So I think the countdown is three council members have asked you or called on the curfew to be rescinded. Any thought about that happening or any thought about it being extended beyond tonight?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (38:43)
Let me… We have made no decisions about extending it beyond tonight. And we have thought long and hard about the curfew time and have debated it especially as it relates to voting and how we can send a clear message that you can vote all the…
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (39:03)
Voting and how we can send a clear message that you can vote all the way through eight o’clock. And we’re going to continue to amplify that message. But finally, it boiled down to a public safety decision and that we saw people leaving to be compliant with the curfew. And when that happens, that allows the police to focus on the people who are bent on breaking the law and being destructive. So we think that it was to the good, over a couple of nights, for public safety. Yes.
One quick question about being a good Chief, about the use of that, I guess, military helicopter, low flying to disperse the crowd. Just what are your thoughts on that as a tactic, both safety-wise and then kind of the ripple effect of how it makes people then view law enforcement?
Chief of Police: (39:56)
That was a federal asset. That decision was made by a federal agency to do that. I don’t know if it was helpful. I can say that. I don’t know if it was helpful. And if asked in the future if that was a helpful tactic, my response would be no.
And then mayor, can I ask you about voting? Have you voted yet? What are your plans for voting?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (40:24)
I’m going to vote after this.
Okay. In person, obviously. Right?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (40:27)
And then you want to tell us who you’re voting for today? I mean, I know there’s not a lot of surprises probably in there, but some of us have to cover the elections tonight and wouldn’t mind having a little sound on just, I mean …
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (40:40)
Well, let’s say just for everybody watching, this is our primary. And we have, in the District of Columbia, I think six council races that are on the ballot. Four wards will be nominating a council member. And two, I guess, only one of the at large is on the ballot now for the Democratic primary. This year, because of COVID and the pandemic, there has been a heavy focus over the last several weeks. I think one of the first, probably in the first week where we were at the DOH Command Center, the Chairman of the Board of Elections briefed the public about how the board of elections would focus on mail-in ballots. The concern was that because of COVID, people would not want to go to in-person voting. There was also a concern about poll workers, not being able to recruit poll workers because of COVID.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (41:49)
And the decision was made to go to, 20 by the board, to go to 22 voting centers across the district and heavily emphasize mailing in the ballot. I don’t have all the numbers in front of me, Mark, but there have been heavy requests for mail-in ballots. And a lot of people across the District of Columbia have already voted. If you were one of those people who requested a mail-in ballot, you have to mail it in today. It has to be postmarked today for it to count. If you’re one of the people who wants to vote in person, in person voting has been open since May the 22nd every day with the exception of Memorial Day. And today is the last day to vote in person, election day. And polls are open until 8:00 PM.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (42:43)
I’ve been struck by the light traffic at all of the voting centers throughout this period, which suggests to me that a lot of people are taking advantage of mailing in their ballots. And so, which has also factored in to our decision. So people, go out and vote. You can do it now. You can vote at any of the 22 sites, regardless of where you live. And all of your races, your council race, if you vote outside of your ward, will still appear on your ballot. So go vote. And I don’t do that type of politics from this podium, but I’m happy to let you know where I’m going to go vote and I’ll tell you all about my choices.
What would you say to residents tonight who might be frustrated that they might not get results tonight because there will still be outstanding mail in ballots that will need to be counted?
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (43:45)
I think that’s going to feel unusual for Washingtonians. People from the other Washington will tell you that’s how it works. If you want to do mail-in ballots, you don’t get the results that night. That’s just how it is. You can’t have it both ways. So I will feel personally frustrated by that, but I’ll get over it and they’ll let us know when they expect to count all the ballots. But I think they allow at least, I think, I’m not sure, but I think they were allowed at least 10 days for the mail-in ballots to arrive. Yes.
The Elections Office said this morning that after the polls close at 8:00 and probably before 9:00, they will release all of today’s voting and all of the ballots that they have, in fact, counted up to this point, which is about 30,000. We recognize that they’ll have many more to go. So you’ll get some indication, but you won’t have results like we know.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (44:44)
My last question-
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (44:46)
At the voting, they said that for the voting centers or the mail-in ballots as well?
For the 20 voting centers today and all absentee ballots that have been counted through today, this morning was about 30,000.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (44:59)
But there’ll be many more after that. I have a question for the Chief. Chief, for people who want to protest peacefully today-
Chief of Police: (45:07)
I’m glad you’re not asking me who I’m voting for. Yeah, thank you.
Yeah, I thought it was a inappropriate question myself. It’s okay. For people that want to peacefully protest today, there are people out near the National Shrine right now. Can you assure the citizens that those who are protesting peacefully will not be subject to anything actions by your department or by any of the federal agencies that are now in the city that are feeling more emboldened to take actions against civil disobedience, or not civil disobedience, but civil protests?
Chief of Police: (45:40)
We, as always, welcome peaceful protesters in the District of Columbia. If you ask me why the protests have not been able to, last night were not able to continue past 7:00 PM, it was because of the agitators who destroyed our city. They are really the ones that are responsible for silencing the voice of the people who want their voice to be heard. And so I think that it would be nice to get through this so we can get our protesters back out so people can hear their voice.
Speaker 18: (46:15)
Thank you all.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: (46:16)