A wreath is seen in front of messages on the security fence on the north side of Lafayette Square, near the White House, in Washington, DC
A wreath is seen in front of messages on the security fence on the north side of Lafayette Square, near the White House, in Washington, DC
PIC: AFP

The massive fence erected around Lafayette Park has become a do-it-yourself gallery of protest art. Messages, posters and portraits, ranging from loving to enraged, almost blot out the view of the White House across the way.

One block away at the corner of 16th and I streets - a constant flash point for most of last week - the calliope version of "La Cucaracha" rang out from an ice cream truck parked just outside the police roadblock.

In front of St John's Episcopal Church, it was so tranquil Monday afternoon you could hear the birds chirping while a white visitor paid for a USD 20 Black Lives Matter T-shirt with Venmo.

As the nation's capital emerges from a violent and chaotic 10-day stretch of protests and street battles, a different mood is taking hold. The anger has given way to something closer to a street fair as community leaders, members of Congress and the DC government have rallied to the protesters' cause.

"For me this is exactly the sort of atmosphere it should be," said Leigh McAlpin, a writer and veteran activist from Baltimore, who was staffing a medical relief tent offering water and snacks.

"Last night we were doing the 'Cha Cha Slide' in the street." Police have turned a several-block area north of Lafayette Park, in front of the White House, into an open air pedestrian space. The area is pristine, with no sign of broken glass and only minimal graffiti visible.

At the medical relief tents, the number-one priority was no longer dousing people with milk and antacid to counter the effect of smoke bombs and pepper balls.

"Please stay hydrated. We have free water here," said one volunteer over a loudspeaker. "Donald Trump is not your friend and neither is the sun on a day like this." The National Park Service says part of Lafayette Park will reopen Wednesday. Spokeswoman Katie Liming said Monday that most of the temporary fencing will be removed. Some fencing will remain in Lafayette Park around damaged areas to allow workers to make repairs and address safety hazards.

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