There has been so much to experience in D.C. during the Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd. We asked local photographers to share what they have seen, and they responded with a wide variety of powerful images. See their photos in this accompanying article.
Last week we wrote about what we saw as the protests started. This week, as the protests continued to expand, some of the things that especially stood out to us were:
- the children, brought by their parents to experience this moment in history and hopefully help change the world
- the military presence in the city, in stark contrast to the peaceful protests
- the sheer size and persistence of the protests
- the creation and use of the new Black Lives Matter Plaza, and protest art around the city
The military presence
While the military presence had lessened somewhat after the first few days of the protest, the military was still everywhere, including forces that had been called up by the Department of Justice — from the DEA, Bureau of Prisons riot teams, and other forces that were not native to D.C. Some of these forces were given arrest powers that extended their usual authority.
There were forces at all the monuments, although much more relaxed than they had been in the previous week. Still, it was jarring to see them there, especially at times when they outnumbered the visitors.
The size of the protests
The protests centered in the blocks around the White House, but people keep marching from all directions. The biggest crowds were on Saturday June 6th, but there were large gatherings every other day too.
Black Lives Matter Plaza
Black Lives Matter Plaza was created on the morning of June 5th, and immediately became the center of the protests.
The new fence separating Black Lives Matter from Lafayette Square became a site for protest signs. The National Museum of African American History and Culture will be saving some of these signs for its collection.
The plaza was also a place for expressions of protest through dancing and singing and speeches.
St. John’s Church, on the new Black Lives Matter Plaza, was restored to its function as a place of prayer and hope.
Artists transformed some of the plywood that had been used to board up windows the week before. Here are the works of the black female artists @trapxbob and @quest_skinner and others on the wall of the National Museum of Women in the Arts and nearby.
There was so much passion and hope for change over this last week, but concrete actions are only at the very beginning. This woman, standing at the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous speech, sums it up:
We are white photographers trying to listen and learn, but not always getting it right. Our intent is to amplify voices and support the fight for equality; it is never the intent to objectify people or profit from these images. The Smithsonian National Museum of African American Culture has a new platform that is a good resource for learning how to talk about race.