BREAKING: Park Police deny protesters were tear-gassed at Lafayette Park ahead of Trump visit
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As media reports and accusations from Democrats flew on Monday suggesting that President Donald Trump ordered ‘peaceful protesters’ tear-gassed just at LaFayette Park so he could stage a “photo op” at St. John’s Cathedral, U.S. Park Police appeared to debunk that as fake news a day later.
On Tuesday, WTOP reporter Neil Augenstein said a Park Police source informed him that no, demonstrators were not gassed and furthermore, at least some of them weren’t peaceful.
“A source says tear gas was never used -- instead smoke cannisters were deployed, which don't have an uncomfortable irritant in them,” Augenstein said. “And, the source says Park Police didn't know President Trump would be walking across the park several minutes later.”
“Park Police say the reason the crowd was disbursed with smoke cannisters is that at that moment, officers were being pelted with water bottles,” he continued. “Another factor was that protesters had climbed on top of the structure at the north end of Lafayette Square that had been burned the day before.”
The media have widely reported that police tear gassed peaceful protesters to carve out a path for Trump to get to the church, where he addressed the mass riots that have left many U.S. cities reeling from violence, looting and arson.
A New York Times headline claimed, “Protesters Dispersed With Tear Gas So Trump Could Pose At Church.” Multiple news outlets from local outlets to national news platforms ran with reports that the smoke plumes from the police were tear gas, and that the protesters were peaceful.
Following the reports, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser called the clearing of the park “shameful," while the Episcopal Diocese of Washington slammed the president for coming to a church after officers cleared his path with tear gas.
“The President just used a Bible and one of the churches of my diocese as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our church stands for,” Bishop Mariann Budde said in a statement. “To do so, he sanctioned the use of tear gas by police officers in riot gear to clear the church yard."
But that does not appear to be the case. In fact, the Washington Post reported Tuesday afternoon that the president had nothing to do with any order: Attorney General William Barr gave instructions to clear Lafayette Park after he learned that President Trump was going to make the short trip to the Cathedral, which – by the way – was set ablaze by ‘peaceful protesters’ over the weekend.
Attorney General William P. Barr personally ordered law enforcement officials on the ground to extend the perimeter around Lafayette Square in Washington to push back protesters just before President Trump spoke Monday, a Justice Department official said.
That order came as clashes between police and the public continued to intensify, with largely peaceful daytime protests over George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody descending into violence and chaos after dark, amid widespread curfews and National Guard deployments.
This certainly wouldn’t be the first time the ‘media’ and anti-Trump Democrats have gotten something wrong.