Bags under benches
People experiencing homelessness’ items packed in canvas bags and stored under benches at McPherson Square, Jan. 6, 2021. This was done a day before the “Trump Save America” rally. Photo by Athiyah Azeem

Six people died and more than 120 have been arrested so far in the wake of the pro-Trump protests at the White House and violent breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 aiming to delay certification of the 2020 election results. The mob scene following a trend of violence demonstrated at previous pro-Trump protest events in December 2020 and included multiple factions of racist, white supremacist and far-right extremists.

Ahead of the rally, the DowntownDC Business Improvement District Dispatch, an outreach team that is part of DowntownDC BID, received concerns from U.S. Park Police about unattended items in McPherson Square, due to its proximity to the White House. People who stay at the federal park often carry or store their items in the area.

The U.S. Park Police did not respond to requests for comment.

A team of Dispatch staff including Gerren Price, director of public space operations, went down and matched belongings to people at the park and identified items that had been left out for a significant amount of time.

“Anything that we did inspect, a lot of it was wet, mildewed and molded, or chewed through by rats … those things we ended up discarding completely,” Price said. It is the group’s policy to remove and dispose of unattended or unidentifiable items in poor condition.

When unattended items are in good condition, valuable, and/or have any identification with them, it is the organization’s policy to hold those items and attempt to reach out to their possible owners. People can contact Dispatch at dispatch@downtowndc.org or 202-624-1150 to reclaim their belongings.

“We really try to reconnect people to their belongings through Pathways to Housing or the DowntownDC Day Services center,” Price said.

According to Kingery, two people had come back to the park to find their belongings missing. One of them contacted Pathways to Housing and obtained a new blanket. Kingery previously stayed in Lafayette Park by the White House, which has been fenced off since June when law enforcement responded aggressively to protests over the police-killing of George Floyd.

Some items were also stored in large, blue, seemingly waterproof bags and kept under several benches at the park. Price says this was not done by Dispatch. None of the five park residents approached by Street Sense Media knew where the bags came from.

Pro-Trump crowds are expected to return. An internal FBI bulletin obtained by ABC News said the bureau had received information about armed protests being planned at all 50 state capitols and again at the U.S. Capitol between now and Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.


Correction (01/14/2021)

This article has been updated to reflect that the U.S. Park Police did not clear McPherson Square. It previously stated that the U.S. Park Police did so on Jan. 5. This was a misrepresentation of Daniel Kingery’s remarks. He said the Park Police were at McPherson Square on Jan. 5 and handed out printed copies of regulations regarding unpermitted structures in federal parks. This statement has been removed. Park Police did recommend DowntownDC BID to inspect unattended belongings.