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Watchdog finds defeat of Lafayette Park protesters was not for Trump photoshoot

Washington – The Home Office inspector general said in a report released Wednesday that the evidence he obtained “did not support a conclusion” that federal authorities forcibly evicted protesters from Lafayette Park last year in order that President Trump can walk from the White House and pose for a photo outside the historic St.John’s Church.

The watchdog, who examined the incident on June 1, 2020, during protests against racial injustice and police brutality in Washington, DC, instead discovered that the United States parks police had the power to clean up the park and surrounding area, and did so to allow a contractor to install limescale fencing after several nights of violent clashes. U.S. Parks Police were also unaware that Mr. Trump would potentially leave the White House and walk through Lafayette Park before “mid or late afternoon” on June 1, a few hours after the ‘contractor arrived to begin the installation, according to the report.

“The evidence we obtained does not support a conclusion that the USPP cleared the park to allow the president to examine the damage and walk to St. John’s Church,” the inspector’s report says. General of the Ministry of the Interior.

The watchdog further discovered that US Parks Police had used a “long-range sound-amplifying acoustic device” to issue three warnings telling the crowd to disperse, although he acknowledged that not all could hear the warning, and some police units began to move to extricate the protesters before the third. and the last warning has been given. Additionally, the report states that there were communication issues between the United States Parks Police and law enforcement officers brought in to assist during the protests, which were sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“We found that the USPP and the Secret Service did not use a shared radio channel to communicate, that the USPP primarily transmitted information orally to law enforcement entities, that an entity responsible for law enforcement Law Enforcement had arrived late and may not have received a full briefing on the rules of engagement, and several law enforcement officers could not clearly hear the commander’s dispersal warnings. incident, ”the report says. “These weaknesses in communication and coordination may have contributed to the confusion during the operation and the use of tactics which appeared incompatible with the operational plan of the incident commander.”

In a statement, Mr. Trump said that the Inspector General “totally exempt[ed] me.”

“As we have said from the start, and this was supported in today’s very detailed and professionally written report today, our excellent park police made the decision to clean up the park to allow a contractor to safely install anti-scale fences to protect against Antifa rioters, radical BLM protesters and other violent protesters who are causing chaos and death in our cities, ”he said.

Mr Trump was convicted of the incident on June 1, 2020, in which law enforcement officers used pepper balls and chemical irritants to disperse the crowd of protesters gathered in Lafayette Park, located in outside the White House, just before the city curfew at 7 p.m. effect.

Shortly after the area was cleaned up, Mr. Trump, surrounded by some of his cabinet and White House staff, walked through the park to St.John’s Church, part of which had been burnt down previous night.

The then president made brief remarks outside the church, then held up a bible as photos of the impromptu visit were taken.

Watchdog finds defeat of Lafayette Park protesters was not for Trump photoshoot
President Donald Trump holds a Bible as he walks outside St. John’s Church across Lafayette Park from the White House on Monday, June 1, 2020.


Then-Attorney General Bill Barr said protesters were pulled from the park to expand the security perimeter around the White House, a move that was expected before Mr. Trump decided to cross the area.

Video footage and reports from June 1 raised questions about the events leading up to Mr. Trump’s exit from the White House, as Barr was seen speaking with the Parks Police operations commander Americans at the scene.

When asked about the exchange, the operations commander told the surveillance team that he warned Barr that the area was not safe and asked him to get away from the crowd.

“The USPP operations commander said the attorney general asked him, ‘Will these people still be there when POTUS [President of the United States] fate? ”according to the report.“ The USPP operations commander told us he had not known until then that the president would come out of the White House and enter Lafayette Park. He said he replied to the attorney general, “Are you kidding me? then lowered his head and walked away. The Attorney General then left Lafayette Park. The USPP’s operations commander denied that the attorney general had ordered him to clean up Lafayette Park and H Street. “

The park police incident commander told the Inspector General’s office that he, too, had never been made aware of Mr. Trump’s specific plans or when he was considering leaving the White House.

“It was just a ‘Hey, here it is.’ And all of a sudden I turn around and there is the entourage, ”the incident commander told investigators, as detailed in the report.

The acting park police chief of police also said he was unaware of Mr. Trump’s plans to visit St. John’s Church.

Limited in scope, the Home Department’s Inspector General’s investigation focused on the actions of the US Parks Police and did not examine individual uses of force by officers, which are at the center of ongoing prosecutions or separate investigations. The watchdog said its power to obtain documents or statements from entities outside the Home Office was limited, although the office received radio transmissions and other information from the Metropolitan Police Department. and the Arlington County Police Department, as well as videos from Secret Service observation cameras in the Parc Lafayette Space and agency documents.

The inspector general said the office did not seek to interview Barr, White House staff, Federal Bureau of Prisons agents or Secret Service or Metropolitan Police Department personnel.

The report recommended that the United States Parks Police develop a detailed policy defining procedures for operations involving protests that may require the use of force and improving communication procedures in the field.

Home Secretary Deb Haaland told Inspector General Mark Greenblatt in a letter last month that she was establishing a task force to review and improve its law enforcement programs.

“The challenges our officers face every day are many, and the need to coordinate closely between jurisdictions in a way that promotes transparency, accountability and public trust is paramount,” she said.

The National Park Service and the US Park Police said they have taken action to follow through on the Inspector General’s two recommendations.

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