Attorney General Bill Barr on Sunday vehemently defended the aggressive use of force used on peaceful protesters outside of the White House ahead of President Trump’s surprise photo-op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church.
When asked by CBS’ Margaret Brennan about whether he thinks it was appropriate for police to use smoke bombs, tear gas, pepper balls and projectiles at protesters who seemed to be peaceful, Barr hit back that they were “not peaceful protesters” and that the notion that they were is a “big lie” by the media.
Brennan then cited three of her CBS colleagues who were at the scene who didn’t hear warnings or see protesters throwing anything, before Barr pivoted to violent unrest in the area over the weekend.
Barr insisted that “there were three warnings given” before going on to explain that he approved a plan for law enforcement to “increase the perimeter” around Lafayette Park at 2 p.m. that day as “park police was facing what they considered to be a very rowdy and non-compliant crowd.”
After Brennan once again pointed out that her colleagues did not witness protesters throwing anything at the police, Barr insisted that he personally “saw them thrown” and that the removal of protesters “was not an operation to respond to that particular crowd—it was an operation to move the perimeter one block.”
Asked again if he thought it was appropriate for police to use tear gas to disperse protesters ahead of Trump’s photo-op, Barr argued that “there were not chemical irritants.”
“Pepper spray is not a chemical irritant,” Barr said. “It’s not chemical.”
Barr’s remarks were aired two days after Sgt. Eduardo Delgado, a spokesperson for the Park Police, told CNN that it was a “mistake” to say the force didn’t use tear gas on protesters before the President and his allies walked over to St. John’s Episcopal Church on Monday.
Watch Barr’s remarks below: