(Updated at 2:07 p.m.) More than a thousand people lined Connecticut Avenue NW to see a historic event earlier today.
Police corralled the crowd to the side of the street. Songs were sung. People clapped. Many were excited to catch a glimpse of His Holiness.
Police closed off the entire block of Rhode Island Avenue NW, so onlookers gathered along M Street NW and 17th Street Northwest to catch a glimpse of the pope as he drove by in his trademark Fiat.
Crowds started gathering early in the morning. Multiple people said they left home early anticipating traffic and Metro problems, but most people said the trip went smoothly.
Laura Fisher, 55, and her mother Francis, 90, arrived just after 6 a.m., five hours before the pope’s arrival, to make sure they could get a good view. The two chose to come to St. Matthews instead of the parade near the White House because the church carries special importance to them.
“We always came to church here when I was younger,” Laura said. “We weren’t planning on battling the crowds at the Mall.”
Another group that arrived before sunrise were the Women’s Ordination Conference, a group that advocates for female priests in the Catholic church.
Standing behind a banner saying that “God made men and women equal,” Women’s Ordination Conference co-chairwoman Kat McElwee said that they are hopeful that Pope Francis will take their message to heart.
“You have to be hopeful,” said McElwee, who came from Rome to participate in the group’s multiple demonstrations during the pope’s American visit. “Francis has shows that he’s a man of conversion and open to change, so we’re elevating stories of women and we believe the message will resonate with him.”
Some protestors representing a different women-as-priests movement were later arrested for laying down in and blocking the street, reported WUSA 9.
Dignity Washington, the local chapter of a national organization for LGBT Catholics also staged a demonstration, holding a banner that read “The spirit speaks through us,” in front of the Human Rights Campaign office on 17th Street NW and Rhode Island Avenue NW. Dignity Washington member Larry Ranley, 60, said that the group was hoping to spread their message with the pope, not to directly protest him.
“It’s a gentle protest,” Ranley said. “Our message is that the spirit is speaking through us, and some of the church hierarchy would argue the opposite, but I have no doubt that the spirit speaks through us. When you’re a practicing Catholic despite the condemnation it almost has to be the spirit.”
But not all the protests were so gentle. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church picketed the event with their usual provocative and vulgar signs, and several anti-abortion trucks decked out with images of bloody fetuses drove past to a chorus of boos.
“That ruined my lunch,” remarked an onlooker in disgust.
Despite these moments, most people gathered were happy to have the chance to see the pope, even if it was only for a brief moment as he stepped out of his Fiat and into the cathedral.
Many people in the crowd discussed how they thought the pope’s visit was a blessing. Veronica Cummings, 35, who is moving this weekend from Mount Pleasant to California, said she saw the visit as a blessing on her life changing.
“There’s something about being here with all these strangers all here for the same purpose,” she said. “I choose to interpret his presence as a blessing on my upcoming move. I’m not religious and certainly not Catholic, but I respect religion for the faith and hope that it inspires in people and I’m hoping this visit is a blessing not only in my personal life but for the whole country.”
In response to last night’s shooting near 7th and O streets NW, MPD’s Third District announced the unveiling of a new 24-hour “community outreach post” near the intersection where the crime occurred.
Officers “familiar with the ongoing problems of the area” will man a tent structure on the 700 block of O Street NW day and night to answer questions, take reports and hand out safety pamphlets.
Additionally, Third District Lieutenant Deborah Pearce will be at the location Tuesday through Saturday, 6-8:00 p.m.
“The citizens of the District of Columbia and the dedicated officers of the Third District, working together, can end the violence and continue the progress that has been ongoing over the past several years,” said Pearce in a press release.
Image via MPD
(Updated at 9:05 a.m.) D.C. Fire and EMS crews responded to a report of a Metro bus on fire in Columbia Heights earlier this morning.
Officials tweeted that they received reports of a vehicle fire near the intersection of 14th Street and Park Road NW around 8:13 a.m.
— DC Fire and EMS (@dcfireems) July 29, 2015
Metro employees on the scene told a Borderstan reporter that fire crews came because there was smoke coming from a belt located in the engine compartment.
“You know how it is in this town, a little smoke and everyone freaks out,” said a DDOT worker at the scene.
There is no visible damage to the bus.
When reached by phone earlier today, D.C. Fire and EMS spokesperson Oscar Mendez said that fire crews responded to reports of flames coming from the radiator engine compartment of a Metro bus.
A Metro spokesperson was reached by phone and is currently looking into the incident.
(Updated at 10:08 a.m.) A man on a bike was struck by a taxi this morning in front of the DoubleTree hotel located at 1515 Rhode Island Avenue NW.
Park View resident Patrick Hills, 31, told Borderstan he was riding along Rhode Island Avenue when the taxi driver glanced his bike.
“I ended up clipping the corner of his car,” said Hills. “I didn’t hit it straight on and tumble over … I glanced off his car and spilled over.”
“I landed on my elbow. My head didn’t hit the pavement, which was awesome,” said Hills. “I have some road rash. I think my rear tire needs to be adjusted back.”
D.C. Fire and EMS officials responded to the scene around 8:47 a.m., but Hills was not transported to the hospital.
A taxi cab driver on the scene said he was the one who hit the pedestrian, but would not give his name or say what occurred.
Following the accident, both men gave statements to a police officer and shook hands.
“So much for getting to work early,” added Hills.
A pedestrian was struck by a car at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue NW and Dupont Circle, say D.C. Fire and EMS officials.
The pedestrian was struck some time before 3:45 p.m. today and transported to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries, said a D.C. Fire and EMS worker on the scene.
A recently released Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) report has shed new light on an alleged assault that caused D.C. police to order Marrakech Restaurant (at 2147 P St NW) closed for 96 hours earlier this week.
According to the report, which seems to vindicate Marrakech of improper conduct, the fight that broke out among several men inside the restaurant around 2 a.m. on last Saturday was “quickly defused” by members of the restaurant’s security.
The initial notice of closure, as first reported by an anonymous reader on PoPville, said that Marrakech may have violated D.C. Official Code when a bouncer allegedly put a male patron into a chokehold and dragged him from the building while breaking up a fight. It also alleged that restaurant management failed to “report the incident to the 911 system” after it occurred.
The ABRA report details exactly what led to several patrons being ejected from the restaurant’s “Aura Fridays” event early Saturday morning.
According to the report, a patron (named as C-1 in the report) was dancing when he bumped into another patron (C-2), causing C-2 to spill his drink.
C-1 agreed to purchase C-2 another drink, at which point C-2 and “several others” began punching and kicking C-1.
C-2 was then ejected from Marrakech by security. He later reported to police that he was choked and dragged while being ejected by a bouncer.
But the ABRA report says that claim is unsubstantiated. Security camera footage taken from the night of the incident shows a bouncer flagging down D.C. police with a flashlight just two minutes after the scuffle began. And neither the camera’s footage, nor a report given by Officer Herbert Rose, a D.C. police officer at the scene, indicated that the bouncer choked or dragged anyone in the restaurant.
Furthermore, Rose said in an interview included in the ABRA report that he “has no idea why MPD would close the establishment, nor why there was no investigation conducted prior to making that decision.”
“Officer Rose stated from what he observed,” continued the ABRA report, “Marrakech Restaurant appeared to do everything within regulation regarding MPD and ABRA requirements.”
The report concluded that Marrakech was in compliance with its ABRA licenses.
At an ANC 2B meeting last night in Dupont Circle, it was announced the closure notice would be allowed to expire, and that Marrakech would be allowed to reopen.
MPD was not available to comment at the time this article was published.
Photo via Twitter.com/Marrakech_DC
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