The City Mourns

Over the past week, we’ve all seen so much in the city in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. It’s hard to summarize it with any coherence, so here are some of the things we’ve seen that are especially powerful or symbolic.

The size of the protests

5/30/20. ©Rob Klug
Crowd wrapping around a military vehicle, looking down toward the White House. 6/2/20. ©Victoria Pickering

Taking a knee

Protestors facing the White House while taking a knee, on 16th St. just north of Lafayette Square, 6/2/20. ©Victoria Pickering
Vigil for George Floyd at the Lincoln Memorial, 5/31 ©Victoria Pickering
6/2/20 ©Rob Klug

Say Their Names

Recognition of many others who have died under circumstances similar to George Floyd.

A wall tribute to some of the African Americans killed by police in the United States, 6/3/2020. @Karen Ramsey
At the Portrait Gallery on 6/2/2020. @Karen Ramsey

Raised fists

Vigil at the Lincoln Memorial, 5/31/20. ©Miki Jourdan
5/30/20. ©Rob Klug
5/30/20. ©Rob Klug
5/30/20. ©Rob Klug
©Karen Ramsey

Moments of hope and meaning

Children Playing Together at the Vigil, Lincoln Memorial, 5/31. ©Miki Jourdan
Signing a message at the Lincoln Memorial, 5/31/20. ©Rob Klug
Young protestor learning to be anti-racist, 6/4/2020. ©Karen Ramsey
Medical staff attended protests at the White House on 6/3/2020. @Karen Ramsey
Defining the problem. ©Miki Jourdan
Face down, protesters remained still for 8 minutes and 49 seconds on Constitution Avenue NW on 6/3/2020. @Karen Ramsey
Vigil memorial. ©Karen Ramsey
Vigil memorial. ©Karen Ramsey
Holy Water and prayers at St John’s Church, 6/2/2020. @Karen Ramsey
Protesting at Lafayette Park on 5/31/2020. @Karen Ramsey
Philipos Melaku-Bello, who has maintained the peace vigil by the White House for 37 years, is expanding on MLK’s message on the morning of 5/31/20 by Lafayette Square. ©Victoria Pickering

Silence is not an option

©Rob Klug
March on Pennsylvania Avenue, 5/30 ©Victoria Pickering
U.S. Capitol 6/3/20. ©Karen Ramsey
Speaking out at the Vigil, 5/31/20. ©Miki Jourdan
5/31/20. ©Rob Klug

Show of Force

6/3/20. ©Rob Klug
Dialogue between Capitol Police and a Protest Organizer, 6/3/2020. @Karen Ramsey
A clergy member prays over soldier’s protecting the White House against the clergy in protest, 6/3/2020. @Karen Ramsey

I Can’t Breathe

Protest near the White House, 5/31/20. ©Miki Jourdan
Clergy from the Episcopal Diocese after a 6/3/2020 prayer vigil near St. John’s Church.
@Karen Ramsey

Militarization

Lincoln Memorial, 6/3/20. ©Victoria Pickering
Fists raised protestors kneel in peace before a heavily armed contingent of US military forces, 6/3/2020. @Karen Ramsey
6/3/20. ©Rob Klug
DC National Guard protecting the White House from DC residents holding a peaceful protest, 6/3/2020. @Karen Ramsey
6/3/20 ©Rob Klug
6/3/20. ©Rob Klug
16th Street, two blocks north of Lafayette Skquare, 6/2/20 ©Victoria Pickering
6/4/20. ©Karen Ramsey

Blood on their hands protest

North Capitol protest

Black Lives Matter signs hang from the overpasses on North Capitol Street to send a message to the presidential motorcade as it passed after a trip for publicity photos at the John Paul II Center on 6/2/2020. @Karen Ramsey
As the motorcade passes on North Capitol residents hold Black Life Matters signs for the presidential entourage, 6/2/2020. @Karen Ramsey

Slave quarters in Lafayette Square

These words were spray-painted on the side of Decatur House during the Saturday night protests. Decatur House is an historic house facing the White House across Lafayette Square, and at first glance, it might be sad to see that it has been defaced. Henry Clay lived here, as did future President Martin van Buren, when they were Secretaries of State.

But Charlotte Dupay lived there too. She was born in Maryland and sold into slavery as a child. Henry Clay bought her from the man who had originally purchased her, and she lived in this back portion of Decatur House, which had been built as servants’ quarters but was turned into slave quarters for Charlotte and other enslaved people who lived there under Henry Clay and Martin van Buren.

Charlotte Dupay eventually sued for her freedom, under a promise that had been made by her previous owner, but Henry Clay opposed it and she lost in U.S. Circuit Court. Clay enslaved Charlotte and her family for many more years until eventually freeing them. Before he freed the family, he often took Charlotte’s son Charles with him on speaking trips to speak about how “well” he treated enslaved people.

So the spray-painted words “Why do we have to tell you that Black Lives Matter?” are on the building where the highest-ranking U.S. government officials – Secretaries of State – bought, owned, and sold black people.


And in process …..

Black Lives Matter is being painted this morning down two blocks of 16th Street by the White House, in advance of Saturday’s expected large protest. We are not sure of the origins of this, but it has been sanctioned and is being facilitated by the Department of Public Works.


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.


We wish everyone in the city health and safety during this time of the pandemic and of confronting racial injustice. Note that as photographers, we have generally been able to socially distance while documenting the protests by using longer lenses and picking our locations, but the protestors in the middle of the crowds obviously have not been able to socially distance during some of the protests.

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2 Comments

  1. These photos are powerful, raw and beautiful. They tell the story of our collective pain and outrage. Thank you for documenting this historic time in our lives. And kudos to you all but especially my cousin Miki!

  2. My wife, Brenda, and I are grateful to all of you for sharing your beautiful photos and documenting these extremely important events. Very powerful! Thanks very much.

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