DC Public Safety Officials Challenge Barr’s Denial Forcible Removal Of Protesters Was For Photo-Op

Police officers wearing riot gear push back demonstrators shooting tear gas next to St. John's Episcopal Church outside of the White House on June 1, 2020. (Photo by JOSE LUIS MAGANA/AFP via Getty Images)
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June 15, 2020 9:58 a.m.

Attorney General Bill Barr has insisted the U.S. Park Police’s forcibly removal of peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square on June 1 was part of a pre-planned operation to extend the perimeter around the White House, not a means to clear a path for President Donald Trump’s unannounced photo-op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

But accounts from D.C. public safety and National Guard officials indicate otherwise.

The officials told the Washington Post that the Trump administration hadn’t given them a heads-up about a plan to have the Park Police extend the perimeter that evening before the 7 PM curfew.

The officials also said they weren’t informed that the Park Police would use force, including pepper spray, to remove the peaceful anti-police brutality demonstrators.

D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham, whose agency was not involved in the debacle, told the Post that his officers only found out about Trump’s unscheduled visit to the church right before the Park Police began gassing the protesters.

“Just a few minutes later, our teams on the ground learned [chemical] munitions were going to be used,” he said. “The munitions were deployed minutes later.”

Newsham said that while there had been discussions earlier about moving the perimeter, not only was he not given a specific timeframe for the operation,
the Park Police didn’t fence off the new perimeter until much later into the night after the protesters had been removed.

An unnamed D.C. public safety official described how the Park Police’s operation to extend the perimeter had been “hurried up” when Trump walked to the church for the controversial photo-op.

Chief of the National Guard Bureau Gen. Joseph Lengyel told the Post that he “never heard any plan, ever, that police or National Guard were going to push people out of Lafayette Square.”

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