Her comments come amid nearly two weeks of nationwide protests over Floyd’s death at the hands of police in Minneapolis. Some protests, including ones in the nation’s capital, turned destructive. But in recent days, the protests have largely remained peaceful.
On Saturday, thousands of people descended upon the nation’s capital to protest but only one person was arrested, according to a tally by the Metropolitan Police Department. President Donald Trump has attributed the National Guard’s presence in the city as a reason for calmer protests.
“What Americans saw was federal police forces tear-gassing peaceful Americans. And how they responded made clear to the President that Americans would exercise their First Amendment rights and they would do it peacefully. And what he actually did, as you saw, for the remaining days would turn out more people and more people who were there for peaceful protests,” Bowser told ABC’s Martha Raddatz on “This Week.”
Tensions between Bowser and Trump have escalated in recent days after federal forces cleared peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square across from the White House so the President could walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church for a subsequent photo-op on Monday.
In a letter to the President on Friday, Bowser argued that the additional law enforcement in the city are “inflaming” and “adding to the grievances” of people protesting.
“The protestors have been peaceful, and last night, the Metropolitan Police Department did not make a single arrest. Therefore, I am requesting that you withdraw all extraordinary law enforcement and military presence from Washington, DC,” the mayor wrote in the letter, adding that she had ended the state of emergency in DC related to the protests.
In a post on Twitter, the President lambasted the mayor and warned that if she didn’t treat the service members “well” he would bring in a “different group of men and women.”
Asked about her “fight” with President during an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Bowser said, “We’re not engaged in a fight, but we’re engaged in a defense of our city.”
“What we saw last week was basically an invasion of our city. Active-duty army troops moved from all points around the country to threaten our autonomy,” she said. “And what you saw, and I won’t have it reduced to a spat, was how I have to defend our taxpayers and it’s sad to say that we would have to defend ourselves against federal forces.”
On Sunday, Trump tweeted that he has ordered for the National Guard to start the process of withdrawing from the nation’s capital.
The mayor also spoke on Sunday in an interview with ABC about the mural painted on several blocks of 16th Street north of the White House emblazoned with “BLACK LIVES MATTER” in yellow and renaming that area “Black Lives Matter Plaza.” Protesters on Saturday added the words “DEFUND THE POLICE” next to the mural.
Asked if she would remove those new words, she would not directly answer.
“It’s not a part of the mural, and we certainly encourage expression but we are using the city streets for city art,” Bowser told ABC. “I actually haven’t even had an opportunity to review it Martha. But we – the response that we’ve gotten from people about the Black Lives Matter – Black Lives Matter mural has just been incredible.”
The mayor had joined the thousands of protesters on the streets of the nation’s capital on Saturday. The Metropolitan Police Department estimated there were at least 6,000 protesters at several locations as of noon, which was before any major events began.
CNN’s Kevin Bohn and Nicky Robertson contributed to this report.