The United States Park Police (USPP) claims it did not deploy tear gas to clear Lafayette Park of protesters ahead of President Donald Trump’s walk from the White house to St. John’s church Monday.
Trump came under fire for the walk after journalists and others alleged the police had used tear gas to clear peaceful protesters out of the way so the president could do a photo op at the church. The USPP at first failed to clarify whether tear gas was used for what many describe as Trump’s “PR stunt.” (RELATED: DC Archbishop Rips Saint John Paul II National Shrine For Allowing Itself To Be ‘Manipulated’ Ahead Of Trump Visit)
The USPP now says that it did use irritants to disperse the crowd, like smoke canisters and pepper balls, but not tear gas specifically. As noted by Daily Caller reporters, the protests Monday night in Washington D.C. were largely peaceful. (RELATED: ‘Act This Month’ — Joe Biden Calls On Congress To Fast-Track Police Reform Bill For Trump To Sign Into Law)
— Brooke Singman (@BrookeSingman) June 2, 2020
“To curtail the violence that was underway, the USPP, following established policy, issued three warnings over a loudspeaker to alert demonstrators on H Street to evacuate the area,” the USPP said in a statement. “As many of the protesters became more combative, continued to throw projectiles, and attempted to grab officers’ weapons, officers then employed the use of smoke canisters and pepper balls.”
“No tear gas was used by USPP officers or other assisting law enforcement to close the area of Lafayette Park,” the agency asserted. (RELATED: US Secret Service Erects New 8-Ft Fence Expanding White House Perimeter — Will Keep Protesters Out Of Lafayette Square)
The Park Police also claim they had discovered caches of baseball bats, metal bars and glass bottles hidden on the street.
Trump entered Lafayette Square, which borders the northern White House grounds, shortly before the 7:00 p.m. curfew began Monday night. When he arrived at St. John’s church, he pulled out a bible and remained there for pictures. Every U.S. president since James Madison has prayed in the church, and rioters attempted to burn it down Sunday night.
Trump’s walk came after he made a brief speech in which he told Americans, “I am your law and order president,” and vowed to bring the U.S. military to assist police in the nation’s capital. Trump has the authority to do so because the District of Columbia is not a state.