Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) rebuked President Donald Trump on Tuesday for having police clear peaceful protesters out Lafayette Square near the White House with teargas so that he could stage a photo-op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church.
“There is no right to riot, no right to destroy others’ property, and no right to throw rocks at police,” Sasse said in a statement. “But there is a fundamental – a Constitutional – right to protest, and I’m against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo-op that treats the Word of God as a political prop.”
Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), the lone black lawmaker in the Senate GOP caucus, was the only other Republican senator to denounce Trump’s actions.
“It’s not something that I thought was helpful or what I would do,” Scott told Politico correspondent Ben White on Tuesday.
“I need to read the rest of the stories,” he added. “But obviously, if your question is should you use tear gas to clear a path so the President can go have a photo-op, the answer is no.”
On Monday, Trump took a short trek from the White House to the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church nearby so he could pose for photos of him waving around a Bible in front of the building, reportedly because he was upset by reports of him hiding from the protests.
Before Trump showed up at the church unannounced, the police cleared out the area by teargassing not only non-violent protesters, but also a priest and other people on the church property.
The protesters were part of a series of sweeping demonstrations against police brutality that’ve erupted in major cities across the country after the killing of a black man named George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Floyd died after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, kneeled on his neck for nearly ten minutes during an arrest last week.
Trump has spared few words on the circumstances of Floyd’s death, focusing instead on the protests that have turned violent and attempting to portray himself as tough on crime by threatening “the thugs” with military action.