DC mayor says that US is descending into race war as city officials label riots 'domestic terrorism'

'Folks who want to suggest or paint the picture that this was somehow peaceful and police indiscriminately used munitions against them, they're not being honest'

Justin Vallejo
New York
Tuesday 01 September 2020 19:59 BST
DC mayor warns US is descending into race war

The mayor of Washington DC has warned of a "race war" after a weekend of violent riots, that began outside Donald Trump's White House speech, that city officials have labelled "domestic terrorism".

Muriel Bowser said on Monday that groups, which were likely well organised and funded, were threatening to send the country into a race war with their "black versus white" rhetoric.

"What I'm worried about is this country descending into a race war... and I'm worried about the continued incitement of violence from leadership who should be focused on bringing our communities together," she said during a news conference.

"We need to be talking about what the trigger is because our police and peaceful protestors will be safer when we come together as a community and tamp down this black versus white rhetoric."

A Democrat, Ms Bowser was thrust onto the national stage after becoming a high-profile antagonist of Mr Trump by having the city paint a giant "Black Lives Matter" in view of the White House, while renaming the street in front of Lafayette Square Black Lives Matter Plaza following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

DC police chief Peter Newsham said the FBI is helping investigations after about 70 per cent of the 69 people arrested from Thursday to Monday came from outside DC.

He said they came armed for battle with urine, fireworks, baseball bats and laser pointers looking for police to confront, leaving six officers injured by rioters attacking with tear gas, glass and brick projectiles, laser pointers and fireworks.

"So folks who want to suggest or paint the picture that this was somehow peaceful and police indiscriminately used munitions against them, they're not being honest," Mr Newsham said.

According to a breakdown of the 541 arrests for violence and unrest in DC from 30 May to 31 August, almost half (43 per cent) were from DC while 83 per cent were from the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area.

While the remaining 12 per cent were from "unknown" origins, only five per cent, about 27 people, were from other states such as Rhode Island, Colorado, New York, Georgia, Michigan, South Carolina, Florida, Maine, California, Mississippi, Delaware, North Carolina, Hawaii, Illinois, Washington, Wisconsin, and Louisiana.

"I think there's a potential that it could be the case... that it could be domestic terrorism, I do think that what the mayor suggested that this could be organised and funded I think those are all potential and we would certainly ask federal partners to assist us in getting to the bottom of it," Mr Newsham said.

The mayor, Ms Bowser, said it wouldn't be a "big leap" to find that those engaged in the violence were connected to a funded and organised group.

"I don't think anything that we have found can connect any protestor to a single group or funder, or organisation, though I don't think it would be a big leap to, that the type of organisation and resources that they're bringing to bear are organised and funded," she said.

The driver of the "Black Lives Matter Snack Van", which is registered to Washington State, was arrested and charged with reckless driving after allegedly endangering pedestrians and police near at 800 16th Street NW.

Mr Newsham said DC police had intelligence that the van was also at the violence seen in Portland, Oregon and Kenosha, Wisconsin, with social media posts and live streams of the van being in those locations during the riots.

The driver, Jeremy Vajko, 27, who was previously arrested by Portland Police on 21 June for interfering with a police officer, has been posting the van's activities to Twitter. He said this week that the DC police charges of reckless driving had been dropped, and had left the city after being there to hand out snacks.

Kenosha Police Department said 102 of the 175 rioters arrested in Kenosha were from out of town, 20 seized firearms, 69 curfew violations, 34 firearm, burglary and controlled substance charges, and three towed vehicles.

Among those was, Riot Kitchen, which Kenosha Police alleged to be carrying gas masks, helmets, protective vests, illegal fireworks and suspected controlled substances.

The president is visiting Kenosha to survey the damage on Tuesday after tweeting on Monday that "radical left mayors and governors of cities where this crazy violence is taking place have lost control of their 'movement'.

"It wasn't supposed to be like this, but the Anarchists & Agitators got carried away and don't listen anymore - even forced Slow Joe out of basement!," Mr Trump tweeted.

Ms Bowser said the president's tweets were meant to distract from the failures of the last four years, while in Portland overnight rioters attempted to set fire to the apartment building of the city's mayor, Ted Wheeler.

It came after acting Homeland Security Chief, Chad Wolf, wrote to Mr Wheeler offering federal resources to stem the violence.

"Portland's mayor has stood by passively, arguing the nightly violence "will ultimately burn itself out," Mr Wolf said on Tuesday. "The evidence demonstrates otherwise. Again, I urge Portland leaders to prioritise public safety and request federal assistance to restore law and order."

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