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As protests sparked by the death of George Floyd continued in Washington over the weekend, the White House went dark.
On Sunday night, May 31 – the sixth day of nationwide unrest since the death of George Floyd – protests escalated, with demonstrators setting fires and police officers launching tear gas and firing rubber bullets into the crowds.
Much of the conflict occurred outside the perimeter of the White House, with an 11.00pm curfew put in place on Sunday by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser failing to restore calm to the area.
Instead, protests continued and President Trump – who has been widely criticised for his response to the demonstrations, refusing to address the nation but instead sending erratic tweets that appeared to threaten protesters with being shot – was nowhere to be seen.
His failure to properly address protesters, or the tragic death of Floyd, was only highlighted on Sunday evening when, just before the 11.00pm curfew, the external lights that can usually be seen illuminating the White House were turned off.
Many said this demonstrated the ‘lack of leadership’ shown by Trump, not only in recent days but throughout his presidency, while others accused him of hiding away from his problems and ‘abandoning the nation’.
These thoughts were only amplified on Friday night, May 29, when the protests outside the White House had just started to turn violent, the president reportedly fled to an underground bunker.
Apparently ‘nervous for his safety’, Secret Service agents ‘abruptly rushed’ Trump to the underground bunker, which in the past has been used during terrorist attacks, as The New York Times reports.
A spokesperson for the White House, Judd Deere, said officials would not comment on whether Trump was taken to the underground bunker. ‘The White House does not comment on security protocols and decisions,’ he said.
It was also not immediately clear what specifically prompted the Secret Service to take him to the bunker, although the agency has protocols for protecting the president when the White House is threatened; according to several advisers, Trump and his family were ‘rattled’ by their experience on Friday night.
This directly contradicts the account given by Trump, who emerged from the bunker on Saturday morning to boast that he never felt unsafe, before saying if protesters would have breached the fence they would have been ‘greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen’.
He also accused the DC mayor of supposedly not providing police to protect the White House. ‘On the bad side,’ he wrote. ‘The DC Mayor… who is always looking for money & help, wouldn’t let the D.C. Police get involved. “Not their job.” Nice!’
Bowser said in a tweet on Sunday, May 31, she understands protesters are ‘tired, sad, and desperate for change’, and placed blame on the White House for inciting violence.
‘We need leaders who recognise pain and in times of despair can provide us a sense of calm and hope,’ she wrote. ‘Instead, what we’ve got in the last two days from the White House is the glorification of violence against American Citizens.’
Protesters continue to demonstrate outside the White House and across the world in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed and defenceless black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest until he lost consciousness.
The other three officers involved have not been arrested.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk
If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677.
The New York Times
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