SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Demonstrations are taking place across America this weekend. Protesters are chanting the name of George Floyd and the names of others who have died at the hands of police - Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray and Breonna Taylor, who would've celebrated her 27th birthday yesterday. She was shot and killed by police inside her Louisville home this March.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Say their names. Breonna Taylor. Say their names. Breonna Taylor.
SIMON: NPR's Neda Ulaby heard those chants outside the White House last night. She's with us this morning. Neda, thanks for being with us.
NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: It's my pleasure.
SIMON: These protests have been going on for well over a week. What did you see last night?
ULABY: Well, when I got there yesterday evening, it was incredibly wet. The rain was super intense. It probably dissuaded everyone but the most hardcore protesters. That said, there were still hundreds of people - very soggy people - outside the White House. I talked to a group of women pediatricians who'd come from all over the United States to offer first aid to protesters and a young man who just walked up and started spray painting a building right next to me.
SIMON: Graffiti, right?
ULABY: Yeah, that's right. He was kind enough to introduce himself and describe his work.
RESISTVIAZEN: I go by @resistviazen on Instagram. This is how I protest. This is the D.C. flag upside down.
SIMON: He was painting an upside-down flag of the District of Columbia?
ULABY: That is correct. And I asked @resistviazen what he'd say to anyone who might confront him about the destruction of property. He says he only tags boarded-up buildings, which honestly describes most of the buildings in downtown D.C. right now.
RESISTVIAZEN: I specifically hit only plywood because I know that it's going to be gone. And, yeah, I just want people to ask questions, and I want people to, like, think and see, like, what does it mean?
SIMON: Of course, Neda, there was what I'll call some state-sanctioned painting yesterday as well. The D.C. government paid for a giant mural right there on 16th Street near the White House that reads Black Lives Matter.
ULABY: Right. Basically, the words Black Lives Matter are painted in giant yellow lettering on the street. It stretches for about two blocks. This is a real statement from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who's officially named this entire area Black Lives Matter Plaza. It's very eye-catching. And I met a young woman taking selfies in front of it. Erica Diaz (ph) says she lost a friend to police brutality, and she got incredibly passionate as we talked and - warning - also explicit in her language about the movement happening right now.
ERICA DIAZ: You know, it starts with Black Lives Matter because it's so blatant the disrespect. And it's just like, stop. It just needs to stop. And as a people, we're coming together. We're becoming stronger, enlightened. We're awake. And it's just the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in life, and there was no way in hell I was going to sit at home when I could bring my [expletive] out here and scream and give my last breath. I'd rather die on these streets fighting for my children than at home comfortable on my couch.
SIMON: And it sounds like Erica Diaz is going to be back out on the streets today.
ULABY: Along with many as a hundred thousand other people here in Washington, D.C. That estimate comes from the city's fire chief. And, of course, there are protests taking place all over the country, every place from Akron, Ohio, to Sacramento, Calif., Garden City, Kan., scores of cities all over the country.
SIMON: What are you hearing about the deployment of law enforcement?
ULABY: That's been interesting. Here in Washington, D.C., more than a thousand active-duty soldiers who were on standby near the city were ordered home last night, according to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. D.C.'s mayor has been very clear about asking the president to remove all extraordinary federal law enforcement from D.C. She says D.C. knows how to handle large demonstrations. She says all the extra military that was out there was messing with the chain of command. And she says it's been confusing to have officers out on the streets that lack insignia. Last night, I saw almost no police officers. Maybe that was because of the rain. Maybe it's because the protests have been extremely peaceful. But there was just not a significant presence of people in uniform, unlike the other times.
SIMON: NPR's Neda Ulaby, thanks so much.
ULABY: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.