An Inspector General report revealed that police were already in the process of clearing protesters from Lafayette Park prior to former President Donald Trump’s “photo op” at St. John’s Church, contradicting a widespread media narrative that protesters were suddenly pushed out to clear the way for Trump’s walk.
From The Post Millennial:
“On the morning of June 1, the Secret Service procured antiscale fencing to establish a more secure perimeter around Lafayette Park that was to be delivered and installed that same day. The U.S. Park Police (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.”
“The USPP planned to implement the operation as soon as the fencing materials and sufficient law enforcement officers arrived at the park. Six other law enforcement agencies assisted the USPP and the Secret Service in the operation to clear and secure areas near the park,” the report continues.
The report says officers began clearing the park at 2:23pm, completing the operation by 6:50pm. Trump made his walk to the church through Lafayette Plaza at 7:01pm. A contractor then installed the new fencing between 7:30pm and 12:30am on June 2.
The report also makes clear that park police had the authority to clear the park on June 1 to allow the contractor to install the fence, further stating that there was no evidence that they knew or accelerated the plan to allow for Trump to make his walk:
“We found that the USPP had the authority and discretion to clear Lafayette Park and the surrounding areas on June 1,” the report states. “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.”
“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. “Further, the evidence showed that the USPP did not know about the President’s potential movement until mid- to late afternoon on June 1—hours after it had begun developing its operational plan and the fencing contractor had arrived in the park.”
Confusion with using a “sound amplifying long-range acoustic device” as well as a lack of communication and coordination between the multiple law enforcement agencies responsible for clearing the park resulted in some protesters mingling behind, leading to the scenes and accounts that sparked the narrative the park was cleared for Trump.
The report also found that many of the protesters in the area were violent, contradicting widespread reports of peaceful demonstrations:
“Specifically, the Treasury Annex building was vandalized; officers were assaulted with projectiles, such as bottles and bricks; and a brick struck a USPP officer in the head, resulting in the officer’s hospitalization. The protests continued on May 30 and 31 and were mostly peaceful during the day. Similar to May 29, however, acts of violence increased in the late afternoon and evenings,” stated the report.
Groups including Black Lives Matter and the American Civil Liberties Union later sued Trump and former Attorney General Bill Barr, claiming Trump’s visit caused the protesters to be forcibly removed.
Trump released a statement Wednesday welcoming the investigation’s findings.
“Thank you to the Department of the Interior Inspector General for completely and totally exonerating me in the clearing of Lafayette Park,” Trump said.
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