Washington is bracing for a large protest Saturday, a continuation of days of demonstrations in the city and across the U.S. over the death of an African American man while in police custody.
The chief of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, Peter Newsham, told reporters Thursday that authorities expected thousands of protesters to descend on Washington for what "may be one of the largest that we've had in the city."
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser sent a letter Thursday to U.S. President Donald Trump asking him to "withdraw all extraordinary federal law enforcement and military presence from Washington, D.C."
The Trump administration has deployed federal military personnel and the National Guard to respond to the protests in the city, triggering widespread criticism from city officials and activists that their actions are escalating tensions.
Bowser denounced federal law enforcement officials patrolling the streets and taking action without regard to "established chains of command."
The Trump administration was widely criticized after federal authorities fired rubber bullets and tear gas Monday to disperse peaceful protesters outside the White House so that Trump could walk to a nearby church and pose for photographs with a Bible in hand.
Protests in Washington have occurred every day since last Friday. Peaceful daytime demonstrations on Saturday and Sunday turned violent after nightfall with looting and other acts of violence.
Bowser said on Thursday the 7 p.m. curfew was lifted for the first time this week as the protests became more peaceful with each passing day.
Of the planned protest, Newsham said, "We expect that Saturday's demonstration will ... be more of the same peaceful demonstrators coming to exercise their First Amendment right in Washington, D.C."
Despite the expectation of large crowds on Saturday, about 700 members of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division were being sent back to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They were positioned in Virginia just outside Washington and did not enter the city during the protests.
The troop presence raised concerns that Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act to allow the military forces to confront thousands of people who have protested nightly in downtown Washington.
The protests in Washington and in dozens of cities across America were sparked by the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died after a white policeman pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes as Floyd pleaded he could not breathe, the latest of many deaths of black Americans during or after encounters with white officers.
Floyd's death sparked nationwide protests demanding justice and systemic reforms.
Since the protests began, the security perimeter around the White House has continued to expand. The White House has not commented on the planned protest.
On Friday, Bowser formally renamed a street leading to the White House "Black Lives Matter Plaza" after authorizing city workers to paint the slogan in large yellow letters on the street.
It remains uncertain which groups are planning Saturday's demonstration.