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Black Lives Matter protesters near White House have one final message for Trump – you should be arrested

Andrew Buncombe
·4-min read
Black Lives Matters protesters have maintained presence near White House (AFP via Getty Images)
Black Lives Matters protesters have maintained presence near White House (AFP via Getty Images)

Karen did not have to think too long about the message she wanted to send to Donald Trump.

Yes, he may only have a couple of days left in office. Yes, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were set to take over, and perhaps correct course.

Yet she did not think the outgoing president should be able to just duck out of town and make his way to Florida.

“I don’t want to give any more attention to that man,” she said. “He should be arrested and taken to jail, so that there is accountability for the insurrection, accountability being a leader that allowed hundreds and thousands of Americans to die."

She added: “There needs to be accounting for the all the thousand small cuts and huge infractions that have taken place since he took office.”

Karen, who asked to be identified by just her first name and who said she was part of a group called “The Resistance”, was among a handful of protesters at Black Lives Matter plaza, a city street close to the White House that was established and named last year amid demonstrations for racial justice that swept the country.

Smokey Sims said he had been protesting for human rights for four monthsAndrew Buncombe
Smokey Sims said he had been protesting for human rights for four monthsAndrew Buncombe

On the street, close to Lafayette Park, is St John's Episcopal Church, which the president used for what many termed a photo-op last summer, clearing the crowds with tear gas to pose in front of the building with a bible.

Dozens of people were hurt, in an event DC mayor Muriel Bowser termed “shameful”.

With just a couple of days before Mr Biden’s inauguration, and with the city under a massive security lockdown, there were many, many more police and soldiers in the nation’s capital than there were protesters.

Yet since last year, Black Lives Matter protesters have maintained a presence close enough to the White House so that Mr Trump could hear the music they were playing – lots of 1970s funk on Monday – and the message they were delivering, were he interested in hearing either.

On Monday, they were trying to ensure the president heard them one last time.

Another protester, Smokey Simms, 32, said he had been part of the protest for about four months.

He said the country needed to do more to protect human rights and promote equality.

Watch: Crowds celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day during march on Brooklyn Bridge

“Here everyone is welcome,” he said of the protest site. He said the president had tried to divide people using politics and money.

“All he has done is create separation,” he added. His message for the president? “You can’t stop us working to bring people together.”

Mr Simms, who is African American, said he was not entirely hopeful that given Joe Biden’s controversial and patchy record on race relations, whether the new president could bring about that.

Yet he said he hoped the presence of Ms Harris, a Black woman of south Asian ancestry, could push things in the right direction.

“We’ll see,” he said. “But we need to be vigilant.”

Even through the most troubled times of America’s recent history, protesters have been allowed to take up position in Lafayette Square – whether they were protesting against the war in Vietnam, the war on terror, or else humankind’s war against the environment.

Karen said Mr Trump needed to held accountableAndrew Buncombe
Karen said Mr Trump needed to held accountableAndrew Buncombe

Yet that changed under Mr Trump, who last year erected barricades and stopped members of the public getting close.

Karen said the president should “get the f*** out of our house”.

“He’s a white supremacist,” she added. “Our entire system is racist to the core.”

Neil Cousins was also not a fan of Mr Trump. He was demonstrating in support of a world free of nuclear weapons.

He said he had only been protesting for eight years, but that he was continuing the actions of other activists who had been demonstrating outside the White House since 1981.

“Trump kicked us out last October,” he said. “In the last couple of days he is trying to do everything to promote the rich.”

Did he hope for a more peaceful world under Mr Biden?

“When you look at his record, I am not very hopeful,” he said. “He supported the war in Iraq, the war against Palestinians.”

He added: “It’s hard to tell if he will be better.”

Watch: How chaos at the Capitol exposed a double standard

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