As It Happens

'You would have kept that door open': D.C. man hailed as a hero for giving refuge to protesters

When protesters in Washington, D.C., were hemmed in by police, pepper-sprayed and threatened with arrest Monday night, Rahul Dubey opened up his home to dozens of them for refuge. Many of those strangers are now calling him a hero, but he says his actions were necessary after seeing his "community getting bashed and decimated" by police.  

Main floor of home was filled with people in 'fetal position crying, screaming, putting milk in their faces'

Rahul Dubey is being called a hero after opening his house to dozens of protesters in Washington D.C., but he says his actions were necessary after seeing his 'community getting bashed and decimated' by police. (NBC)
Listen7:26

When protesters in Washington, D.C., were hemmed in by police, pepper-sprayed and threatened with arrest Monday night, Rahul Dubey gave dozens of them refuge in his home.

Many of those strangers are now calling him a hero, but he says his actions were necessary after seeing his "community getting bashed and decimated" by police.  

"I kept my door open. That is not a hero … I appreciate the kind words, but we need to rise up much more than just keeping our doors open," he told As It Happens host Carol Off. "We need to open up our minds."

Dubey described the moments leading up to opening his house to demonstrators as being "very surreal." 

At around 9 p.m. local time, crowds started to gather along the one-way street where Dubey lives. On Monday, the city's mayor had imposed a citywide curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Dubey said lines of around 30 to 40 officers had positioned themselves at the exit of the road, leaving the demonstrators "pinned-in."

A demonstrator, identified only as Meka, captured video that evening, and took shelter at Dubey's house. He told CNN that the protest was peaceful and people were simply trying to figure out where to go and what to do. 

The events on Swann Street came a few hours after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened the nation's governors that he would deploy the military to states, if they did not stamp out protests over police brutality following the killing of George Floyd. 

Dubey said the protesters were intentionally cornered by authorities in order to "make it a ticking time bomb" and when that didn't happen "[the police] started fighting the protesters." 

"Then all of a sudden, I heard a huge bang, screams, a lot of thuds of like cracking of shields and heads. [...] They were peacefully protesting outside and in five seconds, the police unleashed their wrath. There was a military helicopter circling very low before anyone even showed up."

He then started screaming "get in the house" to those who were on the edges of the sidewalk and near his home's stoop, which included a mother and her daughter.

Hundreds of demonstrators march toward Lafayette Park and the White House to protest against police brutality and the death of George Floyd on Tuesday in Washington D.C. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

"Everyone was racing up the steps for a solid 10 minutes. Pepper spray was going off. They're coughing. They can't see. They're tripping on the steps. I'm braced up against the railing, holding onto the doorknob as wide open as I can because four people are trying to fit through the doorway [at a time]."

The majority of the police line then passed in front of his home and protesters were no longer "scrambling" outside, he said. With things quieting down, he locked the door.

Upon turning around, the entire main floor of his house was filled, he said, adding that people were on the ground in the "fetal position crying, screaming, putting milk in their faces, throwing milk in other people's faces, getting water."

"[The police] pepper-sprayed us. Our eyes were on fire. There was a big, huge cloud on the main floor of all pepper spray. We were trapped in it [and] throwing milk because it mitigates the spray," Dubey said. 

Close to 100 people inside at one point

Some police officers remained outside of the home and continued to spray pepper spray and heckle the protesters through the windows, he said. 

"I went out after an hour and a half. [An officer] told me to 'get back inside.' I said, 'I have people in here.' They said: 'Get back or we'll f--king put you down.'"  

At one point, there "were close to 100 people" inside of Dubey's house, he said. 

D.C. National Guard Military Police officers and law enforcement officers stand guard during a protests near the White House on Monday. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham told CNN Tuesday that no protesters who took shelter inside the house were arrested and that officers "were in constant communication with that homeowner throughout the evening."

Describing the demonstrators as "future leaders,' Dubey said "they showed me something."

"As soon as the mayhem ended and the pepper spray dissipated and people could get their breath back … we started to calm and decompress and see what happened."

"It made me super sad because they were blaming themselves as to where they went wrong." 

"When you saw what I saw — a total force — bullying themselves onto innocent, peaceful protesters. [People were] getting clubbed in the head and sprayed in the eyes, you would have kept that door open."


Written by Adam Jacobson. Produced by Kate Swoger.

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