Smithsonian working to preserve George Floyd protest art from White House fence

WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration on Wednesday began to remove most of a new fence blocking demonstrators and other members of the public from in front of the White House.

Officials abruptly erected the high, black metal fence, estimated to be more than a mile long, last week to block demonstrators from Lafayette Square outside the White House. That was as massive crowds rallied in Washington and around the country to protest the killing of George Floyd in police custody and other deaths of African Americans at the hands of police.

Protestors worked to reclaim the space after the fence went up, covering a large portion of it with colorful handmade signs protesting racism and police brutality.

As the fence comes down, the Smithsonian is looking to preserve some of the protest posters and memorials to Floyd. Curators from the National Museum of African American History and Culture surveyed the scene on Wednesday, saying they "recognize the historical significance" of the moment and were working to capture the moment from a variety of perspectives.

Members of the park service's U.S. Park Police and other security forces lobbed chemical agents and punched and clubbed demonstrators and journalists in clearing Lafayette Square near the White House on June 1, just before crews raised the new fence. Trump administration officials have denied federal forces at the time of the forceful removal of crowds were making way for President Donald Trump to stage photos nearby.

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A county in northern Virginia pulled its officers out of the District of Columbia Monday night after they played a supporting role in clearing protesters from a park outside the White House so the president could walk to a church for a photo opportunity.

Lafayette Square has historically been one of the country's most prominent spots for demonstrations and other public advocacy,

National Park Service spokeswoman Katie Liming had said at the start of this week that officials would remove "most" of the fence at Lafayette Square on Wednesday. Liming in her latest update, however, said only that fencing elsewhere, on the south side of the White House, would be removed "on or about" Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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