Secret Service agents rushed President Donald Trump to a White House bunker on Friday night as hundreds of protesters gathered outside the executive mansion, some throwing rocks and tugging at police barricades. Trump spent almost an hour in the bunker, a Republican close to the White House told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity. An anonymous administration official confirmed that account to the AP.
The abrupt decision to move the president reportedly underscored the "rattled mood" inside the White House, where chants from George Floyd protesters in Lafayette Park could be heard all weekend and Secret Service agents and law enforcement officers contained crowds. The demonstrations protesting the death of Floyd — who died after he was pinned at the neck by a white Minneapolis police officer one week ago — turned violent and sparked one of the highest alerts on the White House since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
White House spokesman Judd Deere told the AP that the White House "does not comment on security protocols and decisions," while the Secret Service said it does not discuss the means and methods of its protective operations. The president's move to the bunker was first reported by The New York Times.
It was not clear if first lady Melania Trump and the couple's 14-year-old son, Barron, joined the president in the bunker. Secret Service protocol would have called for all those under the agency's protection to be in the underground bunker. Trump has reportedly told advisers that he worries about his safety, while both privately and publicly praising the work of the Secret Service.
On Saturday, Trump traveled to Florida to view the first manned space launch from the United States in nearly a decade and later returned to the White House, which saw protesters gathered a few hundred yards away through much of Saturday night. Demonstrators returned Sunday afternoon, facing off against police at Lafayette Park into the evening.
Although Trump's advisers discussed the idea of an Oval Office address in an attempt to ease tensions, that was quickly scrapped for lack of policy proposals and the president's own "seeming disinterest in delivering a message of unity," the AP reports. Trump did not appear in public on Sunday. An anonymous White House official said Trump was expected in the coming days to draw distinctions between the legitimate anger of peaceful protesters and the unacceptable actions of violent agitators.
Nationwide, at least 4,100 people were arrested over three days of nationwide protests over the weekend. The AP reports that 931 people were arrested in Los Angeles and 790 were arrested in New York. Other cities like Houston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chicago and Minneapolis followed L.A. and New York in number of arrests.