Dozens of protesters spent the night in a stranger’s Washington, DC, home after he opened his door to protect them from being arrested for violating the city’s curfew.
Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered a 7 p.m to 6 a.m. citywide curfew on Monday in response to the sometimes violent protests against police brutality following the death of George Floyd last week in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
One protester told CNN that the crowd was marching away from the White House on Monday evening and wound up in a residential neighborhood where they were boxed in by police.
The protester, who asked to be identified only as Meka, told CNN the protest was peaceful and people were just trying to figure out what to do.
“I guess someone gave an order, and they just started pushing us, spraying mace, trampling people, and then that’s when everybody started panicking,” the 22-year-old college senior said.
He looked around and saw his friend running up the steps into nearby home and a man waving for protesters to come in.
“I just ran towards the steps ran up the steps and just started to get inside as quick as possible,” Meka said. “In the moment, I didn’t know if it was the right decision, but I guess it was.”
He said he looked out the window and saw more police officers than he could count and that many people were arrested outside.
Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham said on Tuesday that none of the protesters inside the house were arrested and that officers “were in constant communication with that homeowner throughout the evening.”
Newsham said 300 people were arrested Monday night, including 194 in the area around Rahul Dubey’s house.
Dubey told CNN affiliate WJLA that he was on his stoop and had let some of the protesters charge their phones inside and use his bathroom before police moved in. “There was a big bang and there was spray that my eyes started burning, screaming like I’ve never heard before, and I’ve described it as a ‘human tsunami’ is the best I could see for about a quarter of a block coming down the street,” he told WJLA.
He said he was yelling “get in, get into the house” for about 10 minutes.
Dubey told WJLA that about 70 protesters got inside and it was “pandemonium and mayhem” for about an hour and a half while they tried to settle in and help people who’d been pepper sprayed.
CNN has not been able to reach Dubey for comment.
Meka told CNN that he was not able to get any sleep Monday night and that police tried several times to get the protesters to come outside.
He said that at one point Dubey was able to have pizza delivered and some members of the community also brought food.
Becca Thimmesch lives about two blocks away from Dubey and said she and three other people stayed on his stoop overnight to observe the police activity and check in with the protesters.
She said they also worked to organize rides to get the young people home once the curfew lifted.
“Then around five, with an hour of curfew to go, community members started showing up left and right bringing food and water and hand sanitizer and their cars and offering to take people,” Thimmesch said.
She said they had more volunteers than they needed when the protesters came outside, so a lot of them stayed and helped to clean up.
Earlier on Monday, authorities used rubber bullets and tear gas to clear protesters out of Lafayette Park so that President Trump could visit St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Thimmesch said she saw several other residents on the street let protesters into their houses.
“There is currently a global pandemic, and we’ve been told, ‘do not let people in your house, do not be sharing space with people,’ ” she said. “And you know, these random people made what is what I consider to be a huge sacrifice, to try and guarantee the safety of young people that they didn’t know.”
Dubey told WJLA that he considers the young protesters family and that he was relieved to get texts and messages that they were all home safe.
“I hope that my 13-year-old son grows up to be just as amazing as they are,” he said.
“I hope that they continue to fight and I hope that they go out there today peacefully, as they did yesterday, and not blink because our country needs them, and needs you and everybody more than ever right now.”
CNN’s Lauren Koenig contributed to this story.