White House Briefly Goes on Lockdown as Protests Mount in D.C.
Protests over the killing of George Floyd on Monday have been spreading across the United States all week
Nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis on Monday have reached the steps of the White House.
The White House reportedly went into lockdown on Friday evening as crowds gathered in Washington, D.C., to protest the killing of an unarmed black man at the hands of a white police officer. Several protesters were photographed kneeling outside the White House gates. The lockdown has since been lifted, according to CNN.
"The White House is under lockdown orders from the U.S. Secret Service due to protests outside the gates over George Floyd," NBC News White House correspondent Peter Alexander tweeted Friday evening. "A dozen reporters, myself included, still inside the West Wing."
"The doors to the White House briefing room, where reporters have their offices have also been locked and Secret Service officers are not letting anyone off White House grounds," CNN reported Friday night. "There were members of the press corps around the press entrance but they were just cleared out and have been brought back to the White House press briefing room."
When reached by PEOPLE, a Secret Service spokesperson did not confirm that the White House had been placed under lockdown, but said that "personnel are currently assisting other law enforcement agencies during a demonstration in Lafayette Park."
"In the interest of public safety we encourage all to remain peaceful," the spokesperson added.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
Footage of protests in D.C. shared online saw huge crowds of people — many wearing masks and carrying signs — chanting the words the words "no justice, no peace." More videos shared by local reporters showed people tearing down police barricades and graffitiing buildings with "f— Trump."
CNN White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins tweeted that another group of protesters were gathering in front of the White House chanting the words "I can't breathe" — echoing Floyd's desperate pleas heard in video footage of a Minneapolis police officer pinning the truck driver to the ground with a knee on the unarmed man's neck.
Protests began on Tuesday in Minneapolis, and have spread across the country to cities including Los Angeles, San Jose, Atlanta, Denver, and now Washington, D.C.
Derek Chauvin, the officer in the video, was fired from the department on Tuesday and charged by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman on Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
The three other officers who were present at the time of Floyd's death are still under investigation, Freeman said during a press conference Friday, but he added that he anticipates they, too, will soon be facing charges.
"I am not insensitive to what's happened in the streets...[but] my job is to do it only when we have sufficient evidence," Freeman said when asked if public pressure — including the nationwide protests — had anything to do with the decision to charge Chauvin.