WASHINGTON — After tear gas and debris cleared from 16th Street, the fate of 1,000 feet of storied pavement remained uncertain. What would happen to the mouth of Lafayette Square, where peaceful protesters were assaulted by their own government?
It’s now the site of a civic communion — an ebb and flow of people who move through Black Lives Matter Plaza.
But without a militarized law enforcement perimeter on the other side of an 8-foot fence, attention is now turning to the growing memorial spanning the barrier.
Protesters, families and activists covered the black chain link fence with posters, cards and candles — additions to a sacred space where thousands reflected on the week that was, and the work that remains to be done.
"We’re taking great care of each other, and our allies are also taking care of each other," Katea Stitt said. "And, you know, this is what we have here. A place to collect ourselves, to help one another through this."
Emotions in the plaza remain ever-changing. While Friday saw joy on the sun-splashed street, freshly painted with the words “Black Lives Matter” visible from space, moments of melancholy returned Monday.
There seems to be a wide-spread realization that enduring change will be slow, as headlines return to coronavirus, severe storms, and the politics of who will occupy the home barely visible behind the fence.
“I feel that the people are fired up and understand what’s going on with this situation,” Justin Gilbert, who visited the plaza for the first time Monday, said. “But as far as the police departments around the country and how the police have been doing ever since, I mean, no, no. They don’t hear us, yet.”
Timeline of events that took place at St. John's Church and Lafayette Square on 6/1:
6:29 p.m. — Park Police and other law enforcement agencies working the federal officials move closer to protest fence around Lafayette Park.
6:35 p.m. to 6:39 p.m. — Tear gas, smoke, pepper bullets are fired at protesters multiple times, and Park Police moves in on spaces where protesters are congregated.
6:44 p.m. — President Donald Trump delivers his speech from the Rose Garden, calling for tougher responses by law enforcement in major cities amid "Justice for Goerge Floyd" protests across America and calls for the National Guard to be deployed.
7:02 p.m. — President Donald Trump departs White House and is seen walking toward Lafayette Park on his way to St. John's Episcopal Church.
7:06 p.m. — President Donald Trump arrives at St. John's Church, along with Attorney General William Barr and others in his administration. He has a photo op with the media. St. John's Church had its nursery and basement burned by protesters late Monday evening.
Thus far, no law enforcement agency has admitted to deploying the tear gas to clear Lafayette Square on June 1. US Park Police, Arlington Police, DC Metro Police and the Secret Service have all denied using any kind of chemical irritants at that time.