DC mayor urges calm after protests near White House

A firework explodes by a police line as demonstrators gather to protest the death of George Floyd, Saturday, May 30, 2020, near the White House in Washington. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(CNN) — DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said Sunday that protesters have the right to exercise the First Amendment but should not “destroy our city” after the nation’s capital experienced its second consecutive night of protests as well as some looting Saturday night.

“We’re sending a very clear message to people that they have a right to exercise their First Amendment rights, but not to destroy our city,” Bowser said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We saw a level of just destruction and mayhem among some that was maddening.”

The DC Fire Department extinguished two vehicle fires in the area north of the White House Saturday night, as well as several small fires in the downtown area. Some protesters also put up graffiti on some buildings.

Bowser also urged President Donald Trump to help “calm the nation” and to stop sending “divisive tweets that are meant to harken back to the segregationist past of our country.”

On Saturday, Trump wrongly accused Bowser in a tweet of not allowing the DC Metropolitan Police Department to help the Secret Service keep control of the situation with protesters in Lafayette Square on Friday night. That claim was later refuted by the US Secret Service who confirmed in a statement that the DC police department and US Park police were on the scene.

Bowser responded to Trump on Twitter Saturday, saying that the DC police department, “will always protect DC and all who are in it whether I agree with them (such as those exercising their First Amendment Right) or those I don’t (namely, @realdonaldtrump).”

The DC mayor said while Trump “hides behind his fence afraid/alone,” she stands with people “peacefully exercising their First Amendment Right after the murder” of Floyd and “hundreds of years of institutional racism.”

Trump also tweeted that protesters “would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen,” if they breached the fence outside the White House.

In a press conference Saturday, Bowser noted how Trump’s reference to the “ominous dogs” was “no subtle reminder” of segregationists who would attack African Americans with dogs.

Bowser said Sunday that the city is working on cleaning up after protests and is coordinating with law enforcement “to ensure calm in our city.”

Skirmishes between groups of protesters and law enforcement flared Saturday evening nearby Trump’s residence for the second consecutive night as tensions played out over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis who was pinned down by police.

Some protesters continued to gather in downtown Washington, DC, at Lafayette Square, which is across from the White House, into Saturday evening, but additional protesters were not being allowed in by police.

At times there were attempts by some protesters to enter the park. They were met with pepper spray or other mechanisms pushing them back.

Separately, a group marched and then rallied at the Lincoln Memorial. At one point onlookers reported pepper spray being used. The area around the memorial was then cleared.

DC Police and Park Police did not return a request for comment from CNN.

Law enforcement’s aim was to erect a large space between the protesters and the White House. Authorities wanted to prevent a large number of protesters from gathering at the barriers which are permanently set up in front of the White House.