'No way I was staying home': Trump's response leads more protesters to White House

A massive crowd of protesters ignored the Washington, D.C. curfew and gathered outside the White House Tuesday, a day after U.S. Park Police, the Secret Service, the National Guard and other federal law enforcement forcefully and dramatically cleared the area of demonstrators to allow President Donald Trump to visit a riot-damaged church across the street.

The show of force didn't stop thousands of demonstrators from gathering to protest the death of George Floyd and police brutality on Tuesday, with some telling NBC News they were motivated to join the protests because of the government's response.

“It ignited a fire in us," Alondra Pacheco, 20, said of the spectacle Monday, when law enforcement came at "at peaceful people just so he could walk across the street.”

Pacheco had been out to the protests over the weekend, but another woman from Washington, who asked not to be identified because she was recently furloughed due to the coronavirus and didn't want to negatively impact her employment prospects, said she was joining the protests for the first time.

“I’ve been giving what money I can to groups but after what he did — deploying the military against Americans — there was just no way I was staying home,” the woman said. “He just really came for Americans.”

A large group across the street from the White House took a knee at 7 p.m. ET, the time of Washington's curfew, and announced they weren't going anyplace, chanting "F--- your curfew." They also chanted "Vote him out" and 'Who do you protect?"

The number of protesters appeared to be larger than the crowd that was out on Monday. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D.-Mass., and her husband were seen in the crowd at around 6:30 p.m. ET, the same time federal forces had started using flash bang grenades, pepper balls and physical force to clear the streets the night before.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in a statement earlier in the day there would be a larger law enforcement presence on hand Tuesday.

"There will be even greater law enforcement resources and support in the region tonight. The most basic function of government is to provide security for people to live their lives and exercise their rights, and we will meet that responsibility here in the nation’s capital,” Barr said.

The crowd started to break up voluntarily around 7:30 p.m., with some protesters heading home and others marching towards the Capitol as a smaller contingent stayed near the White House.

The relatively placid scene was far different than Monday, when the federal forces went after the peaceful protesters to force them to disperse almost a half hour before the curfew using smoke and, according to witnesses, tear gas to do so.

In a statement, acting Park Police Chief Gregory Monahan denied that tear gas was used to clear the crowd, and said officers used smoke canisters and pepper balls only after protesters tried grabbing their weapons and threw projectiles at them. Video of the scene didn't show protesters grabbing at weapons, although some started throwing projectiles after officers started shooting flash bang grenades at them.

Reporters, protesters and bystanders — including a priest — who were at the scene said tear gas was used.