All stories as told to Washingtonian.
“They were trying to say come over here and fight us”
“You know where the bridge on 16th Street a few blocks up from Black Lives Matter Plaza? Our car was parked on the bridge. I was with four of my friends. We were wearing masks. I was wearing a black coat and black pants. Honestly, we didn’t think anything would happen; there’s five of us, not little-ass guys, either.”
The narrator and his friends, all friends who went to high school in DC, had gone downtown to see the counterprotest to the December 12 Trump rally. When they went to walk back to their car, they couldn’t go straight up 16th Street because of police lines, so they circumnavigated on side streets till they were back near their car, which was parked near Scott Circle.
“We see a huge march, probably like 200 Proud Boys, running down 16th Street. We’re walking perpendicular to them. And so we get to the corner of 16th and whatever corner we’re on. Instantly there’s a couple Proud Boys there. They start asking us if we’re Antifa. I have no affiliation with Antifa. I had this attitude with them, I was like, f— you, just because they’re Proud Boys. We started going back and forth a little bit.”
The narrator and his friends saw more Proud Boys approaching and decided to make haste to their vehicle.
“We started crossing the street talking shit. [One Proud Boy] brandishes a wand like a baton, like he’s getting ready to hit me. At this point I thought it was 50 people getting ready to jump us and stomp us out. Two cops showed up. They were barely able to divert them. Police pushed us apart, and a Proud Boy sprayed my friend with something. It was stinging his eyes. They were spitting. It definitely would have went very different if they had pushed past the cops.
“I think the city could have handled it so much better. As soon as you walk away from the main street, there’s no police presence. They literally won’t be able to do shit if you walk like a block away. It’s such a heavy police presence in one spot. The Proud Boys were aware of that. They were trying to call us pussies. They were trying to say come over here and fight us.”
—A 20-year-old college student.
“They pulled me down by my hair. I got stomped out for a while”
“I went to the march with my brother on my bike. We were each on bikes. We were down there for a few hours and toward the end we were biking [on Pennsylvania Avenue near the Trump Hotel] and a man threw a flag through my bike. A Trump flag. We didn’t provoke them. We stood out as opposition to them because we were pretty much the only people wearing face masks. The flag was lodged above my wheels so I could keep going. And then another man threw another flag through my brother’s wheel.
“They were mostly in the typical Proud Boy apparel with bulletproof vests. A lot of them were wearing MAGA gear. I made it very clear I had no intention of any physical altercation and was trying to get out of their way. One of them ripped my mask and my glasses off my face and my hat. They destroyed my glasses and started hitting me. They pulled me down by my hair. I got stomped out for a while.
“I eventually broke free and then I knocked on the window of two police cars before an officer found me. There were multiple officers nearby when it was happening. I’m more upset at the police than the Proud Boys. Police officers are paid to protect us Washingtonians.
“I have a small cut on my face. Both of my knees are injured. I have a broken toe. I thought I had a broken rib. My bike and glasses were completely destroyed. We eventually got to a place where my dad could pick us up in the car.”
—A 17-year-old high school student. His brother’s account follows.
“Why am I in handcuffs after getting beaten up by these grown men?”
“My brother and I are both politically active, as is most of the youth in DC. Since the seventh grade we’ve been doing school walkouts and a lot of protests. This time I didn’t have a message to send other than that I don’t want these people in my city. [We] were biking down Pennsylvania Avenue. We’d been biking around for an hour or two. It was around 4:30 PM.
“They threw their Trump flags through the back wheels of our bikes; they knocked us off our bikes doing so. They started yelling, ‘You took our flags!’ ‘Give us our flags back!’ One of the guys came up and blindsided me, smacked me across the forehead. I was pretty shocked after that point. I tried to get on my bike as fast as I could. I started to bike away, and I looked back and saw my little brother getting circled by these guys. About a dozen guys. He was telling them he didn’t want to fight.
“I kind of panicked and I biked over to the nearest cop car that I could find. I frantically tried to get the cop to get out of his car. The cop gets out of his car and he proceeded to get mad at me. He was like, ‘Back away from me, stop yelling.’ He was more concerned with my tone towards him. I look over and I saw one of these Trump people put his hands on [my brother]. I ran over and tried to shove the people off my brother as hard as I could. Next thing I knew, I was basically thrown to the ground myself. I started getting punched in the face and kicked. I had my hands over my head. I think I blacked out for a few moments. And then after what felt like a long time the cops got these people off of me.
“Instead of detaining any of the people who were beating me, they proceeded to put me into handcuffs, assuming that I had incited this incident. They hauled me off in the corner, and they started questioning me for ten to 15 minutes. I was in a bit of a haze. I was pretty upset. Why am I in handcuffs after getting beaten up by these grown men?
“He was like, ‘What is your political affiliation?’ I was like, ‘I don’t have to answer that, do I?’ which upset the cop and he went off and said, ‘This kid is being retarded.’ The other Trump supporters were still walking around, laughing and filming me in handcuffs after being beaten. That same cop, I was asking him repeatedly, ‘What am I being detained for?’ He said, ‘I’m gonna treat you like you treat me and not answer your questions.’ They eventually let me go and they gave me my case number for the assault. I believe they arrested one of the people who were beating my brother and I.” [Note: A report about this incident from DC’s Metropolitan Police Department confirms an arrest was made after this person was assaulted. Asked about this person’s allegations, a police spokesperson says, “At this time, MPD does not have information to corroborate the allegations. MPD prides itself on treating everyone with respect. If anyone has concerns regarding the way they were treated by an MPD Officer, we ask that they file a complaint with MPD or the independent Office of Police Complaints.”]
“My body’s pretty beat up today. I have bruises all over. My doctor told me I have a concussion. Not to mention the emotional trauma. We’re all pretty rattled. We haven’t been sleeping. Honestly, I felt pretty lucky. I was reading the articles about people getting stabbed. That could have been us. In our perspective, these Trump supporters weren’t just there to show support for the President. A lot of the people were there to start violence.”
—A 20-year-old college student.