As massive protests over the police killing of George Floyd raged outside of the White House, across the nation’s capital, and around the United States on Sunday, the external floodlights that typically keep the White House illuminated at night were shut off as President Donald Trump remained out of sight and silent—with the exception of occasional incendiary outbursts on Twitter.
It is not clear why the White House lights were cut, but critics viewed the move as symbolic of the country’s lack of leadership during a time of nationwide sorrow, anger, and crisis. Trump has yet to deliver a formal address to the nation on either Floyd’s killing or the nationwide uprising it sparked, opting instead to attack demonstrators on Twitter and celebrate the brutal response by law enforcement.
“Mr. Trump spent Sunday out of sight, even as some of his campaign advisers were recommending that he deliver a nationally televised address,” the New York Times reported. “The building was even emptier than usual as some White House officials planning to work were told not to come in case of renewed unrest.”
Late Friday, according to the Times, the president was rushed by Secret Service agents to a secure underground bunker as protests erupted outside of the White House.
In a series of tweets Saturday morning, Trump said he “couldn’t have felt more safe” and boasted that any demonstrator who came close to breaching the White House fence would “have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen.”
Mass demonstrations against Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police officers spread quickly across Washington, D.C. Sunday, leading Mayor Muriel Bowser to activate the National Guard and impose a citywide curfew from 11 pm ET to 6 am ET.
“I think the president has a responsibility to calm the nation,” Bowser said during a press conference Sunday morning. “He can start by not sending divisive tweets that are meant to hearken to the segregationist past of our country.”
Thousands of demonstrators packed the streets of the nation’s capital Sunday afternoon chanting “Stop killing black people!” and “Justice now!” as they faced off with police officers in riot gear.
It appears that there could be as many as 2,000 peaceful protesters occupying the street near Lafayette Park right now. The vibe is one of immense solidarity and unity. pic.twitter.com/nQKBqKeD6s
— Julia Boccagno (@juliaboccagno) May 31, 2020
#NOW: Hundreds are packing into H Street north of the White House for a third consecutive evening of protests over the death of George Floyd.
Turnout is high even after yesterday’s clashes. It’s wholly peaceful at the moment, they’ve taken a knee chanting “stop killing us.” pic.twitter.com/2RiHfTfLZi
— Alejandro Alvarez (@aletweetsnews) May 31, 2020
It’s calm but tense here in downtown DC a few blocks east of the White House, where people are facing off against two fronts of city police with gas masks at H and 14th.
They’ve gotten word of Bowser’s 11pm curfew by way of an emergency alert. Their reaction: “Fuck your curfew.” pic.twitter.com/r3QSYPiRYJ
— Alejandro Alvarez (@aletweetsnews) June 1, 2020
The protests outside of the White House only continued to escalate as Bowser’s curfew approached, with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators who gathered to demand that the officers responsible for Floyd’s killing be held accountable.
As the White House protests intensified Sunday evening, the Washington Post reported that “Trump and some of his advisers calculated that he should not speak to the nation because he had nothing new to say and had no tangible policy or action to announce yet.”
“Evidently not feeling an urgent motivation Sunday to try to bring people together, he stayed silent,” the Post added. “Trump let his tweets speak for themselves.”