As Washington, D.C.’s 7 p.m. curfew struck, and dozens of protesters stood outside his door desperate for shelter from authorities accused of using pepper spray, Rahul Dubey reportedly welcomed the protestors inside.
Dubey, 44, was praised for his quick thinking Monday night, when he brought approximately 70 strangers into his home for hours to protect them from police outside, who had allegedly “corralled” them into a holding area.
Dubey told ABC affiliate WJLA that he was standing on his stoop on Swann St. and talking with several protesters, some of whom had asked to use his bathroom or charge their phones, when things took a “pretty evil and pretty dark” turn.
A protester named Meka told CNN he was part of a crowd headed away from the White House when he ended up in the residential neighborhood, and was “boxed in” by police.
“Literally 15 seconds after I had let them through the back and came out, there was a big bang, there was spray,” he said. “My eyes started burning. [There was] screaming like I’ve never heard before, and… a human tsunami [was] coming down the street, just piling on people, wands and batons waving and pepper spray going.”
Dubey said he quickly yelled for the protesters to come inside his house amid the “pandemonium and mayhem." There they stayed for the next nine to 10 hours, until the curfew was up at 6 a.m., he told WJLA.
In the beginning, the mood in the house was chaotic as people used milk and his bathtub to tend to their burning eyes. Then, he said, the groups began having candid conversations about how they could protest more efficiently the next time before Dubey ordered pizza for everyone and neighbors brought over food.
Once 6 a.m. hit, the protesters — who at this point Dubey considered his “family” — headed out the back door and went home.
“I didn’t do anything, I just opened a door,” he told the Washington Post. “There’s nothing special about what I did.”
Protester Sarah Feldmann spent the night in Dubey’s house, and told the Post that police officers stayed in the alley near the house “kind of baiting” the protesters.
“They said, ‘If you come out, we’ll work with you; it’ll be fine,’” she recalled. “But we didn’t believe them.”
None of the protesters in the house were arrested, though 194 people were arrested near the home, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham said Tuesday, according to CNN.
He added that officers were “in constant communication with that homeowner throughout the evening.”
The Metropolitan Police Department did not immediately return PEOPLE's request for comment.
“I hope that my 13-year-old son grows up to be just as amazing as they are,” Dubey told WJLA of the protestors he helped. “And I hope they continue to fight, and I hope that they go out there today peacefully as they did yesterday and do not blink, because our country needs them.”
Earlier Monday, authorities cleared protestors from Lafayette Square to make way for President Donald Trump to walk from his residence to St. John’s Church for a photo-op, The New York Times reported.
Law enforcement officers dispersed the crowds by firing some form of chemical agent at protesters and sending off flash bang grenades around 6:15 p.m., the Times reported.
“There was not a warning. I’ve never been in a war. I’ve never been shot at. I’ve never been afraid in that way. Those sounds and the gas, it will be with me,” protester Julia Dominick told the Times.
United States Park Police acting Chief Gregory Monahan, however, issued a statement saying officers “employed the use of smoke canisters and pepper balls,” but no tear gas.
The Post noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says “several different compounds” can be considered tear gas, like “mace” or pepper spray, since the most prominent effect is bringing on tears.
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