Jun 4, 2020
Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser Press Conference Transcript June 4
Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser held a news briefing on June 4. She said she wants out-of-state troops “out of Washington,” sparking a Third Amendment debate. Read the full transcript here.
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Muriel Bowser: (00:00)
Good morning, I’m Muriel Bowser, I’m the mayor of Washington DC. Thank you for being here for a public safety update. I will introduce the Chief of Police Peter Newsham. But before I get started I want to thank the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for reaching out to the District and also for the communications she will make not just on our behalf but on ehalf of the American people about military assets in Washington, DC. So with that, let me turn to Chief Newsham.
Chief Peter Newsham: (00:12)
Thank you, Mayor Bowser. Thank you for your continued leadership during these very difficult times. Last night, we had our sixth night of protests, consecutive nights of protests here in Washington, DC. Some of the things that were different then what we’ve seen in the prior five nights. Much larger numbers in the city, we estimate in excess of 5,000 peaceful demonstrators.
Chief Peter Newsham: (00:38)
One of the other unique things about this group is they started earlier in the day. We had multiple groups marching simultaneously throughout the city in multiple locations. I had hoped to be able to report on this today, and thankfully I am. There were zero arrests associated with the peaceful demonstrations that we had here in our city. There was no damage to MPD property, there was no MPD injuries. Moving forward over the next couple of days, we expect more of the same. We have a lot of public open source information to suggest that the event on this upcoming Saturday may be one of the largest that we’ve had in the city.
Chief Peter Newsham: (01:27)
We expect that Saturday’s demonstration will, like I said, be more of the same, peaceful demonstrators coming to exercise their First Amendment right in Washington, DC. With regards to numbers of arrests over the last several days. On Friday night, we did not have any. Saturday night, we had 19, Sunday we had 90, Monday 289, Tuesday 29, as of 9:00 this morning, we had zero yesterday. Overall, 44% of our arrests are from people who are either residents or associated with the District of Columbia. 31% have identified as residents of the State of Maryland. 13% have identified as being from the State of Virginia. 4% have identified as being from other states and 8% have no fixed address, or it is unknown their state of origin. 63% of the arrests that we made were for curfew violations. 11% were for rioting and 10% were for burglary. If you want more specifics regarding the arrests, more additional detailed arrest information, you can get that on our website at mpdc.dc.gov. Thank you.
Muriel Bowser: (02:59)
Thank you, any questions? Yes?
Scott McFarland: (03:02)
One chief for the chief, Mayor Bowser.
Muriel Bowser: (03:03)
Scott McFarland: (03:04)
Muriel Bowser: (03:04)
Can you just identify yourself?
Scott McFarland: (03:06)
I’m sorry. Scott McFarland, Channel 4 [inaudible 00:00:03:11]. Chief, what are you doing to prevent COVID-19 from spreading among those you arrest in those small police vehicles, some without masks?
Chief Peter Newsham: (03:19)
Yeah. That’s a challenge for us. So to the extent that we can distribute masks, we are, it’s a concern for us. I think that you’ve heard a lot of conversation about that. As you heard the percentage of people that are coming from outside the district, into the district to participate, we’re going to ask anybody that’s going to attend any events today or moving forward into the future to try to the extent that they can, protect themselves and others by wearing masks and appropriately social distancing, if they can.
Scott McFarland: (03:52)
Mayor Bowser, when the National GUard was called up, was that seamless and flawless how the administration called up our District’s National Guard, or could they have done that better? Congresswoman Eleanor Norton wants to give you a direct control of that, so there are no issues in the future.
Muriel Bowser: (04:09)
We, we called up the guard as you know, as part of our COVID response, I would say that response took longer than this response, calling them up for this public safety emergency. Yes?
Harry Jaffe: (04:25)
Harry [Jaffe 00:04:33], freelance. I’m confused by who’s controlling the streets of Washington DC when it comes to policing. We have reports of the Attorney General Barr having a command post at the FBI. You all have a unified command post on Martin Luther King Boulevard. When the darkness comes and the protests get a little dicey, who’s controlling the streets? Who’s calling the shots? The Chief keeps talking about his federal partners, what’s the state of that federal partnership?
Muriel Bowser: (05:01)
Well, I’ll say it simply and I’ll ask the Chief to provide more detail, but very simply put Peter Newsham controls the Metropolitan Police Department. He works with federal partners and there are particular ones that he has requested to help us with traffic posts. He’ll speak directly to which ones they are. And then there are other federal military assets that we did not request, that we understand are under the direction of the Attorney General Barr. Chief?
Harry Jaffe: (05:40)
Specifically last night, that there was a line of military officers blocking the streets just around K Street, certainly below that, this morning K Street was clear to the fence of Lafayette Park, who deploys those assets?
Muriel Bowser: (05:58)
We were all very concerned about how the Federal assets pushed out from the Federal Complex and we worked with them to push back.
Harry Jaffe: (06:13)
What does that mean?
Muriel Bowser: (06:13)
Just what I said.
Harry Jaffe: (06:16)
You worked with them, so you were in communication with the military police and requesting them to reduce their presence in the city?
Muriel Bowser: (06:24)
We are in communication to communicate our needs, absolutely, and to communicate, obviously the very first thing is we want the military, we want troops from out of state, out of Washington, DC. Yes?
Speaker 5: (06:41)
Just to follow up on that, the White House. Can you comment a little bit more on how you felt about seeing the White House in this increasing military protection?
Muriel Bowser: (06:50)
I’ve commented on that quite a bit. I mean, what do you have a specific question?
Speaker 5: (06:55)
I want to understand where specifically, whether you felt that the protection was adequate? Should those barriers should move farther in, so people can get closer?
Muriel Bowser: (07:05)
Yes. So we saw, I think beginning yesterday, and maybe I’m losing the hours a little bit, but I think beginning yesterday, we saw their line push out from Lafayette Park, which they can argue is part of the Federal Complex that they should police, in which we agree with, that they should police around the Federal Park. When they pushed out onto a DC street, that is too far and that is what we pushed back on. Yes?
Jordan Pastel : (07:39)
Jordan [Pastel 00:07:40] from WMU. I have seen sediment from some residents that say having troops, military vehicles and Federal enforcement agents on the streets feels like an occupation in some ways, how would you describe that presence? What do you say to the people that are upset with this response?
Muriel Bowser: (07:59)
Well, this is what I say, people have to understand the root cause and be willing to do something about the root cause. We are the nation’s capital, a Federal District. We’re more than 700,000 tax paying Americans who don’t have full representation in the Congress and don’t have full autonomy. And so until we fix that, we are subject to the whims of the Federal government, sometimes they’re benevolent and sometimes they’re not and so we have to fix that.
Jordan Pastel : (08:34)
If I can add on that, the protests are on top of all of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m starting to think that in this moment, there’s more fencing, more road closures, how would this be different if businesses were open and crowds of tourists were in town?
Muriel Bowser: (08:51)
I’m not sure I understand? Ho would what be different?
Jordan Pastel : (08:55)
I’m trying to think, with all these roads closed and all these military presence, tourists that are in town and people are trying to get to work, do you think the Federal response and your response would be different if life was more normal right now?
Muriel Bowser: (09:08)
I think that we certainly would still be responding to our public safety concerns. There are still tourists here. I met some of them yesterday. There are still people here having dinner outside on patios in the District of Columbia, even close to this perimeter. There are still people going to parks and walking down streets and living life. In fact, in almost every part of Washington, except where we are, around the Federal Complex, people are going about their daily lives.
Jordan Pastel : (09:37)
What did the tourists say?
Muriel Bowser: (09:39)
They wanted to take a picture. They were visiting and they were exercising their First Amendment rights. Harry?
Harry Jaffe: (09:48)
There were reports earlier in the week that the White House wanted to exercise in both its emergency powers under the Home Rule Act to take over the DC Police. There were reports that there were negotiations back and forth that, that the Executive Offices of the Mayor actually had conversations with the White House. Can you describe what those [crosstalk 00:10:12].
Muriel Bowser: (10:10)
Well, I’ve spoken about this already, Harry, and I will say this, that I can’t discuss every private conversation, but know this, that at no time, is the Mayor going to support the Federal government directing MPD? Yes?
A couple questions, curfew, yes or no tonight?
Muriel Bowser: (10:32)
We will not impose a curfew tonight.
Okay, great. So going back to another stab at Harry’s question, [crosstalk 00:10:44] coordination… you say you pushed back, but yesterday we saw them go all the way out to L Street. I mean, every day the perimeter expands another blocks, clearly way into DC jurisdiction, into Chief Newsham’s jurisdiction. One, do they tell you in advance? Two, you say you push back, have you had any success, I mean-
Muriel Bowser: (11:06)
They’re back, they’re back this morning.
Muriel Bowser: (11:09)
You think you’ll stay there?
Muriel Bowser: (11:15)
Let me just say this Mark, we’re dealing with a fluid and unprecedented situation. Yesterday, I’ve been working largely over at our EOC at health and this week I’ve been working here. Yesterday, as you know, I walked down 16th Street towards the White House and could see for myself, how far that line had come out. I directed at that time for the Chief and others to, “Let’s on whatever we have to do with whomever to get that line pushed back.” They can make an argument for protecting their Federal assets, especially the White House, but pushing back into the District, blocking access to St. John’s. We were there with a Bishop yesterday, and if she wanted to go to the church, she couldn’t have. She would have had to gone through the line.
Muriel Bowser: (12:18)
So DC residents need access to DC streets, unless there can be a compelling reason. Now also keep in mind that some of the perimeter check post, traffic posts are MPD-directed, and depending on the movements in the city and their need to protect or help people move, or to make safe protesters moving through the city, they may create their own perimeter.
I’m Sorry, you said you’ve been looking at the legal authority that the President has to do this, to bring troops in from out-of-state and to close DC streets and possibly federalized MPD. What have you determined? Have your lawyers given you any feedback?
Muriel Bowser: (13:05)
Well, I mentioned yesterday that I had conversations with our Attorney General and we had further conversations today with the Attorney General’s office, but other legal scholars as well, including Council Member Mary Cheh. T, those questions are being posed specifically, if the President can call other state’s guard into DC, without taking further legal action.
What would you do? Would you go up to Governor Hogan?
Muriel Bowser: (13:45)
I have not talked to Governor Hogan.
He said you approved his mission.
Muriel Bowser: (13:49)
I can’t approve his mission. Let me explain to you how this works, Mark. If I wanted troops from Maryland to come into the District, we are a member of a compact, which allows me to make that request specifically to any State National Guard to do that. I have not done that for any state.
Jordan Pastel : (14:18)
Since they’re no longer blocking so many streets today, I saw Chinatown yesterday. Are you satisfied with where they’re at now or would you like them to scale back further?
Muriel Bowser: (14:26)
I actually, I don’t have a complete download on that. I’m happy that they’re pushed back to Lafayette Park and I’ll do a scan of any other concerns that we have today. Yes?
Harry Jaffe: (14:39)
Some of us might remember that Pennsylvania Avenue used to have traffic right in front of the White House, it got closed off and security pushed back further. Do you have any sense of whether that might happen to Lafayette Park and how would you react? I know it’s Federal territory.
Muriel Bowser: (14:57)
I’m glad you asked me that Harry, because I just had that conversation with some of my team. I’m one of those people who grew up in Washington DC and has been very accustomed to being able to have access to all of our Federal facilities, going up on the Capitol grounds, our Congresswoman had to push back from not allowing slang on the Capitol, from being able to walk all around the Supreme Court, to walk in front of the White House on both sides. And now all of that is under threat.
Muriel Bowser: (15:28)
I’m also concerned that some of the hardening that they’re doing may be not just temporary and so we would also have to push back from that. So keep in mind that that’s the people’s house. It’s a sad commentary that the house and its inhabitants have to be walled off. I think that’s a sad commentary. We should want the White House to be opened up for people to be able to access it from all sides and I dare say that looking at traffic management permanently, is also important. Any other questions? Yes?
Well, I just have a COVID question, but I’ll just follow up on that answer. So when you say you fear that some of the hardening up might become permanent, where are you talking? Do you think they might close off what is now Pennsylvania Avenue Plaza to-
Muriel Bowser: (16:21)
Well, I would just say they are very unconventional and we know that we have all kinds of Federal authorities, including the National Capital Park and Planning Commission, NCPPC that comments on every detail of the White House complex except in an emergency. So it’s going to be very important that even when they made the fence taller, which was an argument that could be made from that, there was a lot of discussion over changes to that complex. So while we’re right in the middle of a public health and public safety emergency, actually, that we have to think about those assets. Those are Federal assets, true, but they’re also very important to local Washington and to our country. So people need to have access to our public buildings.
Can I ask, just COVID, I know you had said by the end of the week, you’ll tell us about the metric, but today the data released show that once again, the community spread downward trend has stalled and you warn that you are anticipating yet another spike from data that has yet to come in, that could reset to day zero. What do you tell people about how close we’re getting to phase two and here we are at, in battling… I know you’re dealing with two fights?
Muriel Bowser: (17:44)
We do expect Mark, to return over to the EOC tomorrow in have Dr. Nesbit present to have a fuller conversation about COVIOD metrics and our progress in phase one.
What can you say about this stall and spike in the numbers?
Muriel Bowser: (18:04)
The numbers are what they are at this point, that’s all I can say. The other thing that I would say, however, is, and I said this yesterday, that we want to make sure that people aren’t delaying getting tested. Our testing locations are open. We saw a lull in testing and people going to get tests for, I think, almost a week. So we want to make sure that people are not delaying getting tested. Our citywide sites are open and all of their private providers are open and we are testing this week access to pre-COVID testing at our fire stations. We will announce next week the fire stations were free COVID testing will be available. Yes?
Speaker 5: (18:55)
I wanted to try to clarify, you were talking about pushing back when Federal authorities were are going into DC streets. Can you explain how that conversation goes? Who do you talk to, to make that request?
Muriel Bowser: (19:06)
It would depend. The things that we need done, or I, in this case directed Chief Newsham to identify who was responsible for that pushback and get it moved back.
Speaker 5: (19:24)
Muriel Bowser: (19:26)
Chief Peter Newsham: (19:30)
I’ve had multiple conversations with Federal leadership and of course the Mayor and express the city’s desire after they expanded their footprint into DC streets, there was a strong desire by the Mayor to have them go back to the Federal Complex, which they did. They’ve done that this morning. So I think that we should call that a success. Can I talk a little bit about the prior conversation too, and this is, because I’ve gotten a lot of people from the community who have reached out about what they perceive as this military takeover. It’s really hard to distinguish between our DC National Guard and some of these other Federal resources that we’re talking about. They look the same, they look like soldiers. So we did request DC National Guard assistance.
Chief Peter Newsham: (20:26)
The other thing, and the Mayor was adamant about this and she was just talking about it, is she does not want the folks who live in the District of Columbia to have their freedom restricted. But some of the traffic closures that MPD is responsible for is 100% to ensure the safety of the peaceful demonstrators. You cannot have vehicles moving through people who are almost exclusively moving on bicycles and on foot. To have vehicles in that situation is extremely dangerous. So I just want to make it clear that our request of the Guard was to close some streets so we could have free movement and that’s not uncommon for large demonstrations here in the District of Columbia.
Harry Jaffe: (21:16)
To follow on that question, when push comes to shove and there’s tension and conflict around Lafayette Park, to use your language, what’s the chain of command when the Federal authorities want to push from Federal land on to District of Columbia property? How does that work?
Chief Peter Newsham: (21:39)
It’s a collaborative agreement and a cooperation and communication. If the Federal Government expands their footprint, we’re obviously not going to get into a physical conflict over that. I think that’s more of a legal battle that may have to play out moving forward into the future. Particularly as the Mayor mentioned, in the middle of a public safety concern for the city. So they did it, we were successful in getting them to move back and I think we should all be very pleased about, at least that.
Harry Jaffe: (22:13)
You mentioned how many different people are out there, that you can’t tell who they are, should people be concerned, there’s a lot of… and it’s hard to tell if they’re military or whether they’re law enforcement, but their uniformed, they’re carrying weapons and they have no insignias. They don’t have badges. You don’t know the difference.
Chief Peter Newsham: (22:31)
I think you too, there’s a local, legal requirement that the Metropolitan Police Department identify themselves. I know that if you see… Even if our officers on Saturday and Sunday, when they had to put on a helmet to protect themselves, there’s a clear insignia on the helmet of who we are and exactly by number who they are so we can identify them.
Chief Peter Newsham: (22:53)
I think in any followup after-action that we do with our Federal partners, that would be a big ask of us, that any resources that they bring in the District of Columbia can be clearly identifiable as to who they are, because people might feel more comfortable if they could look at people who appear to be soldiers and see, “Oh, that’s the DC National Guard. Because the DC National Guard is in DC regularly, not regularly, but from time to time to assist with large events.
Harry Jaffe: (23:21)
The DC National Guard for the most part had a DC flag. [crosstalk 00:23:26].
Chief Peter Newsham: (23:25)
Okay, good. So maybe that’s a good thing that you all could push out when people are seeing these things, if they got a flag, that’s our own DC National Guard.
Do you know for these law enforcement or military to be on our streets, armed, without… I mean, you say your officers are required to have that, are they required to identify in some manner who they’re with or what agency [crosstalk 00:23:53].
Chief Peter Newsham: (23:51)
I think you’re asking two different questions. The first question is whether or not, the DC National Guard can legally be on our streets?
I’m not talking about the Guard, I’m talking about the other Federal-
Chief Peter Newsham: (24:02)
I think that’s a question that’s going to be resolved moving forward. Okay.
Scott McFarland: (24:09)
Based on what the Mayor said, it sounded like the Attorney General was the one who ordered the expansion. Is that who you asked to scale back? Who’s calling the shots here for this?
Chief Peter Newsham: (24:17)
I think the Mayor said it very well. I can’t talk about every single, particularly, operational conversation that I’ve had during the course of these events. But I think that the Federal properties are being controlled by Federal resources and this is the line that has been drawn since the very beginning. And the Metropolitan Police Department is responsible for the city streets and our communities.
You can understand our frustration as reporters, we can’t figure out who’s calling the shots sometimes.
Chief Peter Newsham: (24:47)
If you look at actions that are being taken in and around Federal properties, it’s Federal resources. If you’d seen the actions that are taken on our local streets, it’s MPD, other than the quick expansion we saw the other day.
Muriel Bowser: (25:02)
I just hope that you take some of that frustration and channel it into your coverage of DC statehood and why we need to be autonomous. So I’m looking forward to that. Yes?
Harry Jaffe: (25:14)
So we’re expecting from your comments, a large protest on Saturday, do you have any idea how many people we’re expecting?
Muriel Bowser: (25:28)
I’ll ask the chief to talk about our plans for Saturday.
Chief Peter Newsham: (25:32)
Those numbers are difficult to judge. This is the stuff that we’re seeing on open source, there’s an indication that there’s a call out for large numbers, but it’s not DC-specific. There’s a national call out. So you can look back at… We’ve had similar demonstrations that were nationwide. So big cities across the country, so that’s where we’re trying to judge our numbers. But at the end of the day, it’s unpredictable. I mean, you can look at some of the huge demonstrations we’ve had in our city, the Women’s March comes to mind. The March for our Lives comes to mind. These large, extremely large, peaceful protests is something that we feel very comfortable managing. If you look at the way that this particular event has moved forward, we’ve had a couple of days of really good, successful, peaceful, demonstrations and moving forward that’s what I expect regardless of size moving into the future. Was that too long of an answer?
Harry Jaffe: (26:36)
It was perfect.
Chief Peter Newsham: (26:37)
Scott McFarland: (26:38)
Are you in communication with the Federal authorities because this gives the Attorney General Barr sitting at the FBI another opportunity to deploy Federal lawmen, officers into our streets. This is a perfect opportunity for him.
Chief Peter Newsham: (26:57)
There’s a very close coordination between MPD and the Federal Government.
What does your crystal ball tell you? I can’t recall how long Occupied DC lasted. Maybe you do. But what does your crystal ball tell you about how long this will last, this week, day seven today, you say will go through Saturday.
Chief Peter Newsham: (27:17)
I mean, I’ll say this there’s a lot of understandable passion around this, this movement, rightfully so. I think passion drives how long this might last. It’ll really be a wait and see. I don’t think I can predict the future. The only thing that I would ask is that we continue to have people who come here act peacefully. I think that’s a better avenue, if we want to make change, to have that be accomplished.
Muriel Bowser: (27:50)
Thank you all, thank you! [crosstalk 00:28:10].