Trump claims exoneration in Lafayette Square clearing out

U.S. President Trump walks out of the White House to visit St John's Church in Washington

U.S. President Trump walks out of the White House to visit St John's Church in Washington

Almost a year ago, then-US President Donald Trump notoriously conducted a photoshoot with a Bible in front of St. John's Church in Washington, DC, while authorities violently cleared nearby Lafayette Park of reporters and protesters mourning the loss of George Floyd. He was then photographed holding up a Bible outside St. John's Episcopal Church. "The USPP, in coordination with the Secret Service, determined that it was necessary to clear protesters from the area in and around the park to enable the contractor's employees to safely install the fence".

Inspector General Mark Lee Greenblatt's report explains that on June 1, 2020, the Secret Service and United States Park Police chose to clear protesters from Lafayette Park in order to allow a contractor to install antiscale fencing the Secret Service obtained that morning. The new fencing had arrived that same morning, it said.

However, the inspector general found that Attorney General William Barr urged officials to speed up the clearing of the area once Trump had set his plans to walk through, according to NBC News.

A woman holds onto a fence surrounding Lafayette Park as part of the expanded protective perimeter around the White House on January 17, 2021 in Washington, DC.

However, the report by Interior Department Inspector General Mark Greenblatt on Wednesday indicated that Park Police had already planned to clear the area and was already in the process of implementing that plan before they knew that Trump would be making an appearance.

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"Instead, the evidence we reviewed showed that the USPP cleared the park to allow the contractor to safely install the antiscale fencing in response to destruction of property and injury to officers occurring on May 30 and 31", said the report. "The evidence we obtained did not support a finding that the USPP cleared the park to allow the President to survey the damage and walk to St. John's Church".

Trump walked through the park after the plans to clear protesters were already in motion. Trump said in response to the IG report.

The report drew criticism from congressional Democrats, who have faulted federal agents for their use of pepper spray to clear protesters from the square and street.

The report did identify several issues with the incident, including a determination that protesters were not adequately warned and that a lack of communication led to some law enforcement officials using chemical irritants that had not been authorized.

"We also found that although the USPP used a soundamplifying long-range acoustic device to issue three dispersal warnings to the crowd on June 1, not everyone could hear the warnings".

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