- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 7, 2020

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis visited the newly renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza in front of the White House on Sunday, a day after thousands of people had flooded the area to protest the death of George Floyd.

In addition, President Trump, who feuded with the Democratic mayor last week over police control of protests in the District, announced Sunday that he ordered the National Guard to leave the city, “now that everything is under perfect control.”

And St. John’s Church, an Episcopal house of worship that became a focal point last week, welcomed protesters at a prayer service Sunday morning before they returned to their demonstrations. The church near the White House sustained fire damage in its basement a week ago during rioting and later was where federal law enforcement dispersed peaceful protesters in order to facilitate a presidential photo op.

Sunday marked the 13th day of protest across the country following the death of Mr. Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly 9 minutes.

Marred by looting and rioting early last week, the D.C. protests have become peaceful, with Miss Bowser lifting a four-night curfew on Thursday and Metropolitan Police reporting only one arrest for property damage Saturday night.

Meanwhile, houses of worship played a role in the weekend’s events. On Saturday, just two blocks from the crowds around the White House, a long line of protesters waited for a bathroom break at the historic New York Avenue Presbyterian Church.

The church was one of several religious groups to join local businesses in the “#OpenYourLobby campaign,” offering demonstrators restrooms, water, shelter from the sun and, in some cases, snacks and charging stations for cellphones.

New York Avenue Presbyterian, which President Abraham Lincoln regularly attended, once hosted Martin Luther King for a speech about the Vietnam War.

“We’ve always played a role in American history when the crunch time came and now is no different,” said volunteer David Snyder, a longtime member of the congregation.

The Rev. Billy Kluttz said the church first offered help to protesters Monday and followed suit every day since Wednesday following a vote from its session, its body of elders.

“Our job is to offer peace to people who are working for peace and justice, and if we can support that in a small way, that’s what we want to do,” Mr. Kluttz said.

In a display of solidarity with the protesters, Miss Bowser had the stretch of 16th Street NW between H and K streets — the road leading up to the White House — renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza on Friday. Local artists were commissioned to paint the words “Black Lives Matter” on the roadway in large, bright yellow letters.

But critics have said the mayor hasn’t gone far enough to support Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter D.C. claimed the mural on the street was a “performative distraction from real policy changes,” and late Saturday, some protesters painted their own addendum next to the mural: “Defund the Police.”

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Miss Bowser did not say whether she agreed with defunding the police, one tenet of the movement’s stated agenda. She defended her policies by saying her budget proposal increases funding for public schools by more than 3% and that the District has an “innovative” program to hire new officers for the police department.

“What that does is it makes us have a force that is diverse, it has more women, it has more D.C. residents and it will help us create a partnership between police and community,” Miss Bowser said.

• Adam Zielonka can be reached at azielonka@washingtontimes.com.

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