WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump was briefly moved to the White House’s underground bunker Friday night to shelter in place for a brief period of time as the protest grew outside the Executive Mansion.
The protests over George Floyd’s death hit the nation’s capital Friday night as angry protesters arrived at Pennsylvania Avenue, leading to a lockdown at the White House.
Outside the White House on Friday, Secret Service could be seen after 7 p.m. taking at least one person into custody. Videos showed a large group of protesters gathering, with some burning flags and knocking over barricades. There were also some violent encounters.
The president remained there about an hour before returning to the residence, according to a Republican close to the White House and an administration official who spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity. It is currently unknown whether first lady Melania Trump and their son, Barron, were with the president but the family has been shaken by the size and venom of the crowds, AP reported.
“The White House does not comment on security protocols and decisions,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere. The Secret Service said it does not discuss the means and methods of its protective operations.
Officials told The New York Times, which first reported the story, they never believed Trump was in danger but took the precaution of moving him to the bunker as tensions escalated.
Trump has told advisers he worries about his safety, while both privately and publicly praising the work of the Secret Service, according to the AP.
Floyd, an unarmed black man, died in Minneapolis police custody this week after a white officer pinned him to the ground under his knee. His death has sparked demonstrations against police brutality and racial discrimination in cities across the United States.
Trump praised the Secret Service and said he “watched every move” from inside the White House during Friday’s protest and that he “couldn’t have felt more safe.”
“They let the ‘protesters’ scream & rant as much as they wanted, but whenever someone got too frisky or out of line, they would quickly come down on them, hard – didn’t know what hit them,” he said Saturday.
Trump continued, “The front line was replaced with fresh agents, like magic. Big crowd, professionally organized, but nobody came close to breaching the fence. If they had, they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen. That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least.”
He also claimed DC Mayor Muriel Bowser didn’t allow DC police to “get involved” and assist Secret Service, though Secret Service later said they were on the scene.
Bowser, a Democrat, said on Twitter the city’s police department would protect everyone regardless of whether the mayor agreed with them.
“While he hides behind his fence afraid/alone, I stand w/ people peacefully exercising their First Amendment Right after the murder of #GeorgeFloyd & hundreds of years of institutional racism There are no vicious dogs & ominous weapons. There is just a scared man,” she wrote.
This is the same bunker Vice President Dick Cheney was brought after the September 11 attacks when authorities feared a hijacked plane hijacked was heading toward the White House. President George W. Bush, when he returned to D.C. later that evening, was later taken there after a false alarm of another plane.
The recent protests have led to one of the highest alerts at the White House complex since those attacks.