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President Trump Addresses The Nation And Walks To 'The Church Of Presidents'

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Addressing the nation from the Rose Garden this evening, President Trump said he was beefing up law enforcement around the country.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Today I have strongly recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers, that we dominate the streets.

CHANG: And as President Trump made his remarks to the nation, protesters chanted outside the White House. Immediately after, the president exited the White House and walked a brief distance to St. John's Church. The historic church was damaged by a fire during the recent protests. NPR's Tim Mak joins us now from Washington with more.

Hi, Tim.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Hey there.

CHANG: So what are you seeing right now at the moment?

MAK: So I'm at the corner of Connecticut and I Street NW, not very far from the White House. And we just saw a few dozen protesters kind of get enveloped by lines of police on either side of us. It looks like they are making arrests right now. They did let the press kind of squeeze out through an exit, but they checked all badges. And basically, anyone who didn't have a press badge at that time, it looks like, is being detained. We've now been pushed about a block away from that now.

CHANG: Wow, OK. Can you describe the moment that we just mentioned, when the president left the White House on foot to visit the damaged church. Tell us what happened exactly there.

MAK: Well, authorities very quickly cleared protesters from Lafayette Park in order for the president to make that short walk from the White House over there. And once there, he stood holding a Bible. The president invited other officials, including the attorney general and the White House press secretary, to join him. It's not a very large distance between those two venues. That's St. John's Church. I should mention this is a church of significant historical importance and has been visited by every president since James Madison. Now, of course, Lafayette Park is the area right in front of the White House, where a lot of demonstrators have gathered in recent days.

CHANG: OK. And I know that you have been out there for a while. You have been talking to protesters. What kind of things are you hearing in reaction to the president's remarks tonight?

MAK: Well, I'm not sure a lot of the people who have been out here were listening to the president's remarks in real time.

CHANG: Interesting.

MAK: There's a - definitely a disconnect between the people who are here demonstrating today and what the president is trying to convey from the White House, from the Rose Garden and so forth. We spoke to Joseph Varrentas (ph). He's a 28-year-old who lives here in Washington, D.C. He came down, and he said that he was protesting against violence, against some of the actions of law enforcement in recent days. We saw bruises and cuts on his arms and on his forearm. And we also observed over the course of the last hour and a half or so, you know, police pushing back against protesters. We saw some minor injuries. We saw law enforcement using riot shields and using their batons in kind of rhythmic fashion to push demonstrators back away from the White House.

CHANG: Well, there is now a local curfew in effect in Washington, D.C., as of 7 p.m. Eastern. It is now 8 p.m. where you are. Does it look like that curfew is going to be enforced? Does it look like that people are going to respect it? What's your sense at this moment?

MAK: When we first were walking around at around 7 o'clock, when the curfew began to take effect, we did see people leaving. But it appears now that the people who are here are the people who are willing and interested in staying and not adhering to that curfew. We are not seeing - we don't know if the curfew is being enforced or whether other issues are being enforced. As I mentioned, a few dozen protesters were just enveloped and detained right in front of us here.

CHANG: All right. That is NPR's Tim Mak, who's joined us from near the White House.

Tim, please stay safe. Thank you very much.

MAK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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