Washington D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser slammed the “shameful” decision of federal park police to clear protestors from Lafayette Square ahead of President Trump’s visit to historic St. John’s Episcopal Church.
After Attorney General William P. Barr appeared in the park, where protesters chanted his name with expletives, the National Guard, U.S. Park Police, and Secret Service began to advance before the 7 p.m. curfew imposed by Bowser.
The president, who called himself “your president of law and order” as well as “an ally of all peaceful protestors” in comments from the Rose Garden, then walked off the White House grounds shortly after the curfew to visit the church, which was set on fire during riots Sunday night. Standing in front of the church for photos, Trump held a Bible and promised to keep the country safe.
Bowser later took to Twitter to condemn the federal actions. “A full 25 minutes before the curfew & w/o provocation, federal police used munitions on peaceful protestors in front of the White House,” she said, adding that it would make the job of D.C. police “more difficult.”
I imposed a curfew at 7pm. A full 25 minutes before the curfew & w/o provocation, federal police used munitions on peaceful protestors in front of the White House, an act that will make the job of @DCPoliceDept officers more difficult. Shameful!
DC residents — Go home. Be safe
— Muriel Bowser #StayHomeDC at 7 pm (@MurielBowser) June 2, 2020
White House spokesman Judd Deere defended the federal actions, saying “the perimeter was expanded to help enforce the 7 p.m. curfew in the same area where rioters attempted to burn down one of our nation’s most historic churches the night before. Protesters were given three warnings by the U.S. Park Police.”
Trump appeared to acknowledge the divisiveness of his gesture, retweeting Greta Van Susteren after she said the response to the church visit shows “we live in very divided times.”
“People who hate @realDonaldTrump will criticize his walk to St. John’s ..People who love @realDonaldTrump will be in awe of it..,” Van Susteren stated.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article and a previous headline reported that tear gas was used to disperse protesters in Lafayette Park based on the accounts of numerous reporters on the ground. That detail has been removed since it is now unclear whether tear gas was in fact used. The Park Police, who served as the main force dispersing the rioters, issued a statement Tuesday evening in which they claim no tear gas was used. Instead, the Park Police claim they used “smoke canisters” and “pepper balls” to disperse the crowd. The Secret Service, who were also on scene when the rioters were driven from the park, have refused to say whether they deployed tear gas.