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Security Perimeter Around White House Expanded By Several Blocks

A person stands next to a fence as demonstrators protest Thursday near the White House over the death of George Floyd. The security perimeter is being extended several blocks.
Evan Vucci
A person stands next to a fence as demonstrators protest Thursday near the White House over the death of George Floyd. The security perimeter is being extended several blocks.

The people are continuing to be kept away from The People's House.

An expanded security perimeter around the White House will be in place for several more days, even as the mayor of Washington, D.C., called on the Trump administration to withdraw its extra federal law enforcement and military presence from the city.

Fencing around Lafayette Park, just across the street from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., was installed earlier this week amid heightened security measures in response to days of peaceful protests over police treatment of African Americans. Now, according to the U.S. Secret Service, more areas in the vicinity are being closed.

Security fencing has been installed around the entire Ellipse and extends multiple blocks to Constitution Avenue.

"These closures are in an effort to maintain the necessary security measures surrounding the White House complex," the Secret Service said in a statement. It says those areas will be closed until Wednesday.

Police and federal forces began pushing protesters in Lafayette Square back from the White House on Monday night, using shields, billy clubs and tear gas. Attorney General William Barr gave that order after President Trump expressed the desire to walk across the street to St. John's Episcopal church for a photo-op. Barr told reporters that some demonstrators had thrown projectiles and that the group was "becoming increasingly unruly." Forces only expanded the security perimeter after demonstrators refused to move back one block, Barr said Thursday. "We asked three times."

Barr is among those being sued by the D.C. chapter of Black Lives Matter for violating their constitutional right to peaceful assembly. Also named in the suit are President Trump, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secret Service Director James Murray. Shutting down the Lafayette Square demonstration "is the manifestation of the very despotism against which the First Amendment was intended to protect," the lawsuit states.

Meanwhile, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has called on Trump to "withdraw all extraordinary federal law enforcement and military presence from our city." Protesters have been peaceful, she said, and she has lifted the city's state of emergency related to demonstrations.

"We have developed a finely wrought system of coordination with federal partners, and we will continue to work with them to ensure the safety of demonstrations," Bowser wrote in a letter to the president. "We are well equipped to handle large demonstrations and First Amendment activities."

Bowser also expressed her concern about unidentified federal personnel patrolling the city. "Our police and incident command have clear channels of communication and roles and it is important to note that these additional, unidentified units are operating outside of established chains of command," she wrote. "This multiplicity of forces can breed dangerous confusion."

Bowser added that "law enforcement should be in place to protect the rights of American citizens, not restrict them."

Trump administration officials said that the perimeter is meant to keep protests from getting too large near the White House and that the administration is eager for the expanded barriers to be removed, according to The Washington Post.

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Matthew S. Schwartz is a reporter with NPR's news desk. Before coming to NPR, Schwartz worked as a reporter for Washington, DC, member station WAMU, where he won the national Edward R. Murrow award for feature reporting in large market radio. Previously, Schwartz worked as a technology reporter covering the intricacies of Internet regulation. In a past life, Schwartz was a Washington telecom lawyer. He got his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, and his B.A. from the University of Michigan ("Go Blue!").