White House Defends Use Of Force Against Protesters: ‘No Other Choice’

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 3, 2020 3:36 p.m.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday defended the use of chemical agents and projectiles used by law enforcement officials to clear crowds of racial justice demonstrators in Lafayette Square on Monday — a move that was widely criticized as an excessive use of force on a peaceful protest. 

“They had no other choice,” McEnany responded when asked if law enforcement officials under the direction of Attorney General Bill Barr had overstepped in their attempts to forcibly remove protesters from the park in preparation for President Trump’s walk to a photo op at the St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Those responsible for increasing the perimeter for Trump as he made his way to the church used the most “minimal force” possible, McEnany said. Contrary to reports from the scene, McEnany described groups of “rioters” who had grown violent and were launching bricks and water bottles at police officers. 

Protesters were given three warnings, the press secretary said, before members of the National Guard, park staff and other law enforcement officials escalated the encounter to an “appropriate level,” dispensing chemicals into the air and shooting projectiles to drive protesters away.

Among the crowds that day were families and children, rushing from the scene to make way for a moment that McEnany declared will be Trump’s very own “Churchill” moment — holding a Bible in front of a church at a time of national distress — much like a wartime president who assessed damage after World War II. 

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