‘Like a human tsunami’: Protesters take refuge in homeowner’s house after fleeing detainment from officers
|National Post 03 Jun 2020 at 15:15|
“Rahul is amazing,” Sarah Feldmann, one of the protesters who took shelter in Dubey’s home, said in an interview Tuesday morning.
Feldmann was on her balcony when several hundred protesters streamed past at about 9 p.m. on Monday, chanting “March with us, stand with us.”
The 31-year-old, who works in Democratic Party politics, decided to join.
When the march reached a corner, a line of D.C. police officers was blocking the road. Someone who seemed like an organizer suggested the protesters head west. But within a few seconds, the marchers realized that they were boxed in by officers in riot gear on all sides.
“We were trapped,” Feldmann recalled.
“Let us go, let us go,” the protesters chanted.
Instead, after a 15-minute standoff, the police surged forward, pushing protesters with their shields and spraying gas.
As they tried to get away, about 60 of them found an unlikely escape: Dubey’s rowhouse.
He choked up Monday as he said he saw protesters injured in clashes with police.
Protestors march through the streets during a demonstration over the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody, on June 2, 2020 in Washington, DC. Samuel Corum/Getty Images
“It was a human tsunami,” he said. “I was hanging on my railing yelling, ‘Get in the house! Get in the house!’ ”
He said a “crowd came racing through like a tornado,” and he “flung the door open and let them inside.” He added: “I opened a door. You would have done the same thing.”
At first, the scene inside was almost as chaotic as on the street. Officers were spraying gas through the open front door and windows, Feldmann said. Once the doors and windows were closed, Dubey guided the gassed protesters to his basement kitchen or the back patio, where they washed their eyes with water and milk. When the milk ran out, Dubey’s neighbors passed more over the fence.
The protesters worried police were going to break down the door and arrest them; officers were arresting protesters who had been trapped outside. At one point, a police official came to the door, claiming someone inside had called 911, but Dubey turned him away. At another point, someone claiming to be a protester knocked at the door, but those inside worried it was a police infiltrator.
On the back patio, protesters could hear police on the other side of the fence trying to get the protesters to come out, Feldmann said.
“Police were in the alley for most of the night, kind of baiting us,” she recalled. “They said, ‘If you come out, we’ll work with you, it’ll be fine.’ But we didn’t believe them.”
At least one protester jumped the patio fence, she said, adding that she wasn’t sure whether the person was arrested or escaped.
As it became clear that police weren’t going to raid the house, those still inside settled in for a long wait until curfew ended.
Protesters lie down during a moment of silence as they protest the death of George Floyd near the US Capitol on June 3, 2020, in Washington, DC. – The United States has erupted into days and nights of protests, violence, and looting, following the death of George Floyd after he was detained and held down by a knee to his neck, dying shortly after. MANDEL NGAN / AFP
“People were just kind of mingling around, chatting, making videos, Instagrams,” Feldmann said. Some protesters were talking to legal aid groups outside and relaying information to others, passing around markers to write the number of attorneys on their arms in case arrested. One woman began organizing cars to pick protesters up at 6 a.m., when the curfew was lifted.
At one point, pizza arrived, the boxes passed over the back patio fence and devoured by the protesters spread all over the house.
Feldmann curled up in a corner of the basement, catching about an hour of sleep before waking at 4:30 a.m. Breakfast arrived not long after: bananas and Pop-Tarts slid through the mail slot.