Presidents live within a protective cocoon built and continually fortified for one purpose: keeping them alive. But inside the White House compound these days, Donald Trump seems rattled by what’s transpiring outside the windows of his historic residence.
When Marine One deposited Trump on the South Lawn last night after his day trip to Florida, the president walked toward the entrance of the White House amid a cacophony of car horns and chanting protesters who flung themselves against barricades in an hours-long clash with police. Trump hasn’t seen demonstrations on this kind since he assumed office in January 2017. Protesters breached an outer checkpoint at 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue at one point yesterday afternoon. All day long, cars streamed toward the White House, with passengers leaning out the windows and chanting, “Black lives matter!” As one car passed a White House gate at 15th and E Streets, a group of men shouted at the guards: “Fuck you.” On sidewalks littered with soiled masks and empty water bottles, demonstrators pumped their fists in solidarity and demanded respect for African Americans—a community whom Trump says he “loves.”
As night fell, the protesters massed outside Lafayette Square, just north of the White House. A booming drum echoed in the heavy evening air and people chanted, “I can’t breathe!” in homage to 46-year-old George Floyd, who died Monday while pinned to the ground by Minneapolis police, straining for breath. (The three-word chant—which counted among the final words of Eric Garner, another black man who died at the hands of cops, six years ago this month—could be heard in protests across the country last night.) Some tossed water bottles and other projectiles at a line of police officers, who in turn fired pepper spray, causing the protesters to scatter briefly along H Street and then return to the area outside the White House.