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2 Jul 2020 17:44
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  •   Home > News > International

    Washington man Rahul Dubey offers refuge and comfort to protesters caught in 'human tsunami' amid police crackdown

    Faced with a "human tsunami" of young protesters being coralled into his suburban Washington neighbourhood by police, Rahul Dubey opened his doors and gave them sanctuary.


    Rahul Dubey says the scene resembled a "human tsunami".

    He had opened the door of his row house in a leafy part of Washington DC after hearing "screaming, beating and people getting their heads slammed down on the ground".

    Moments earlier, hundreds had started marching down 15th Street, a major thoroughfare, to protest the death in police custody of George Floyd.

    Some claimed police chased them into the suburban neighbourhood, using flash-bang grenades, to keep them away from the area around the White House, where fires have been lit and businesses looted in recent days.

    It was two hours after the district's 7:00pm curfew on Monday.

    Choppers suddenly started circling overhead and police dressed in riot gear cut the protestors off, driving most into a side street.

    I witnessed some of it from my youngest daughter's bedroom about 30 metres away, as I pulled her from her cot and moved her further away from the windows as a precaution.

    The demonstrators were swiftly surrounded and pepper spray appeared to be used, as officers "corralled" people into an ever tighter cordon in order to arrest them.

    "They were really scared, running for their lives," Mr Dubey told the ABC.

    "I saw the pepper spray being used and people tripping and I just for 10 minutes said, 'Get in my house, get in.'"

    He took in more than 50 people and sheltered them until the curfew ended at 6:00am, ensuring they were not taken into custody.

    Mr Dubey believes officers were being too confrontational.

    "You just open the door [to the protesters], you would have done the same thing too," he said.

    "The [officers] were spraying pepper spray in through the window and people were using milk and water to try to get it out of their eyes.

    "I do some work in Colombia — it is 10 times safer than what I feel right now in north-west Washington DC, our nation's capital."

    Police accused of ignoring coronavirus concerns

    Mr Dubey's neighbours, Juliana Rossi and Stephanie Hernandez, also took in about six people for the night.

    They were unhappy with the way police handled the protest, and say they expect the tension in the city to continue to grow.

    "It's crazy to me that they pushed everyone together in a massive huddle, because of the coronavirus," Ms Rossi said.

    "The protesters were initially trying to stay apart."

    In total, more than 194 people who took part in the protest were taken into custody for violating the curfew.

    Police Chief Peter Newsham told a media conference his officers acted with force after "seeing an indication of an escalation of potential violence".

    He said some social media reports about police aggression were totally "inaccurate", though he announced footage of the incident would be reviewed to ensure all officers acted appropriately.

    The city's Mayor, Muriel Bowser, urged people to comply with the curfew to avoid more ugly scenes.

    "That doesn't mean you're leaving at 7:00pm, it means you're off the streets at 7:00pm," she added.

    'This was a Jesus act'

    Although there are mixed views in the city of Washington about the ongoing protests, Mr Dubey's actions have been hailed by some in his neighbourhood.

    Throughout the day, several people dropped off cards and gifts on his doorstep. Some of the visitors said they planned to emulate his move and take in protesters if demonstrations flared again.

    "He opened his home for a street full of strangers," DeWan Lee said, after bringing bottles of water.

    "Those people could have robbed, killed, done anything to this man, but he helped them. This was a Jesus act.

    "They're kids, most of [the protesters].

    "We need to remember they are trying to make a better life for themselves and their community."


    ABC




    © 2020 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved


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