Congressional Democrats are requesting an investigation into the U.S. Park Police’s aggressive use of force in dispersing protesters from Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. to make way for a presidential photo-op at a nearby church.
“The First Amendment rights to free speech, peaceful assembly, and free press are the building blocks of all other rights. Any actions by the Park Police to muzzle these rights is an affront to all Americans and should be swiftly addressed, ”Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) Deb Haaland (D-NM) wrote to the inspector general of the Department of Interior, the agency that oversees the Park Police.
The lawmakers say further investigation is needed into both Park Police and any other of the agency’s law enforcement officials that were deployed at that time. The lawmakers proposed creating a website and permitting anyone who bore witness to the events at the public park on June 1 to submit statements, photos and video evidence to document police activity during the incident.
The scenes of militarized law enforcement cracking down on peaceful protesters has become an indelible image in the Trump presidency. The dispersal of protesters around the White House that day was followed by military helicopters flying low in D.C. to clear crowds.
Officials initially declined that any tear gas was used on the protesters around Lafayette Square, but they later acknowledged that “denying there wasn’t any use of tear gas was a mistake.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) has also requested an investigation by the Government Accountability Office into the use of force against protesters in a proposal to examine the safety of rubber bullets as a crowd control tactic.