Approximately 70 protesters in Washington D.C. were able to avoid arrest thanks to a man who let them shelter in his home after curfew.
Black Lives Matter protests broke out in the capital following the death of George Floyd, and in an attempt to stop people gathering late into the night Mayor Muriel Bowser issued a citywide curfew, extending from 7.00pm on Monday, June 1, to 6.00am on Tuesday.
According to one protester, identified only by the name Meka, the crowd was marching away from the White House on Monday evening when they found themselves boxed in by police in a residential neighbourhood.
Local resident Rahul Dubey saw police setting up what turned into a holding area, and as the crowds began to gather some protesters approached him to ask whether they could use his bathroom and charge their phones.
Speaking to , Meka described the protest as ‘peaceful’, and said activists were trying to figure out where to go from the holding area when police started ‘pushing… spraying mace [and] trampling people’.
Meka saw Dubey stood on his porch, waving people inside his home.
The protester said:
I just ran towards the steps, ran up the steps and just started to get inside as quick as possible. In the moment, I didn’t know if it was the right decision, but I guess it was.
There was a big bang and there was spray that my eyes started burning, screaming like I’ve never heard before, and I’ve described it as a ‘human tsunami’ is the best I could see for about a quarter of a block coming down the street.
Dubey remembers yelling ‘get into the house’ for approximately 10 minutes in an effort to help as many people as possible. He said about 70 protesters made it inside, after which everyone tried to settle in and help people who’d been pepper sprayed.
Though there were police waiting outside, Dubey managed to get some pizza delivered, and other members of the community also helped by contributing food.
Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham confirmed none of the protesters inside the house were arrested, and that officers ‘were in constant communication with that homeowner’, though police are said to have tried to get the activists to come outside.
A total of 300 people were arrested on Monday, including 194 in the area around Dubey’s house.
Another local resident, Becca Thimmesch, joined three other people in sitting on Dubey’s doorstep overnight so they could observe the police and check in with the protesters.
As the curfew drew to an end, members of the community gathered to offer the protesters food, water and lifts home.
Thimmesch acknowledged the selflessness of Dubey’s actions, commenting:
There is currently a global pandemic, and we’ve been told, ‘do not let people in your house, do not be sharing space with people.’ And you know, these random people made what is what I consider to be a huge sacrifice, to try and guarantee the safety of young people that they didn’t know.
Though Dubey’s actions may have risked his health, he said he considers the young protesters as family and hopes his 13-year-old son ‘grows up to be just as amazing as they are’.
I hope that they continue to fight and I hope that they go out there today peacefully, as they did yesterday, and not blink because our country needs them, and needs you and everybody more than ever right now.
One protester, Andre, said he was relieved to have been able to shelter in Dubey’s home and expressed his happiness everyone managed to get through it together.
Once the curfew lifted at 6.00am, protesters were able to peacefully leave Dubey’s house.