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Interior watchdog accuses DC police of using tear gas against BLM protesters in Trump photoshoot

“While the evidence is not entirely clear, we found that several communication failures may have contributed to a BOP misunderstanding of pepperballing from inside the park,” the report adds.

The report gives a chronology of the events which led the park police to take action against the thousands of demonstrators protesting against the police violence. The events of June 1 became a flashpoint in the Trump administration’s handling of nationwide protests against police brutality that erupted after a Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd, an unarmed black man. The park’s police violence has drawn fierce criticism from local and state leaders, congressional lawmakers, religious leaders and even foreign governments.

the several days of protests in Lafayette Square Park were mostly peaceful, but some of the demonstrators vandalized the Treasury annex building and threw bottles and bricks, injuring nearly 50 officers, according to the report.

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police Department said individuals in the area threw several items at police during the June 1, 2020 incident, including an incendiary device attack that severely burned and marked the member. an MPD officer.

“In response to these assaults, the MPD deployed crowd control tools which included tear gas in an attempt to stop rioting behavior and protect both officers and others in the area,” he said. the department said in its statement.

The department’s Inspector General’s office interviewed witnesses, reviewed video footage, and reviewed written and recorded files to compile the first in-depth government report on the use of force by park police against Black Lives Matter protesters in Lafayette Square Park on June 1, 2020. The park Police cleared protesters long before the 7pm curfew set up by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, but his executives were unaware Trump was planning to host a photoshoot at a nearby church, the report said.

“The evidence we reviewed showed that the USPP authorized the park to allow a contractor to safely install limescale fencing in response to the destruction of federal property and injury to officers on the 30th and 31st. May, “Inspector General Mark Lee Greenblatt wrote in a statement. summary of the report. In addition, the evidence established that the relevant USPP officials made these decisions and began implementing the operational plan several hours before they became aware of a possible presidential visit to the park, which took place. held later in the day. “

“We also found weaknesses in the park clean-up operation, including the deployment of US Secret Service before the USPP began its dispersal warnings and the USPP’s failure to provide warnings of dispersal loud enough for everyone to hear and indicating to protesters where to go out. prior to the start of the cleanup operation, ”Greenblatt added.

On May 30, the day before park police cleared the park, the Secret Service spoke with a fencing contractor about how quickly the contractor could deliver limescale fencing to Lafayette Square Park, according to the emails. reviewed by IG. Park police were tasked with protecting the contractor’s employees and began making a plan to clean up the park around 10 a.m. on June 1, the report said.

Fenced trucks started arriving at the White House compound around 4 p.m. on June 1, according to the report. Two hours later, park police began writing the message warning protesters to leave the park.

Park police only learned that Trump would be crossing the area around 6:10 pm when Attorney General Bill Barr, then at the scene, asked the operations commander, “Will these people still be there when POTUS?” [President of the United States] fate?

“The USPP operations commander told us that he had not known until then that the president would come out of the White House and go to Lafayette Park. He said he replied to the attorney general, “Are you kidding me? then bowed his head and walked away, ”the report said.

Park police at 6:23 p.m. began warning protesters to clear the area. Soon after, park police began issuing warnings for protesters to leave the park. But videos taken at the scene and interviews show the warnings were inaudible to many people in the park, including some police officers, the report said.

The warnings came before Bowser’s curfew because the curfew only tied law enforcement to his district, not federal agents, the park police incident commander said, according to the report.

“We were not enforcing the mayor’s curfew,” the park police incident commander told the IG office, according to the report. “We are a federal entity. We do not work directly for the mayor.

The IG office recommends that the park police improve how he is warning protesters that officers will begin to clear the area, including “how the USPP will help ensure everyone, including all law enforcement officials and the people they are trying to disperse, can hear the warnings “. He also suggested to the agency “to improve its communication procedures in the field to better manage multi-agency operations”.

The findings of the IG inquiry were requested by then Home Secretary David Bernhardt, as well as Democratic lawmakers, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and representatives Raul Grijalva of the ‘Arizona and Debra Haaland from New Mexico. Haaland, now Home Secretary, in her written response to the report, said she would form a task force to improve the department’s law enforcement programs.

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