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Watchdog: Police plan to clean Lafayette Square ahead of Trump photoshoot

A federal watchdog said on Wednesday that US parks police had planned to evacuate protesters from a park near the White House long before they learned that President Donald J. Trump was going for a walk in the park. region.

Home Department Inspector General’s report concluded that “the evidence did not support a conclusion” that park police cleared the park just for Mr. Trump, who walked through the park on June 1 of last year before posing for photos in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church holding a Bible.

The explosion of violence in Lafayette Park, which came at the height of the racial justice protests last summer, has become one of the defining moments of the Trump presidency. Protesters in the shadow of the White House were repulsed with smoke and lightning grenades and chemical sprays deployed by shielded riot officers and mounted police.

The interior ministry inspector general’s 30-page report offers new details on the park’s police decision-making. And the sequence of events described in the report suggests the area clean-up operation turned violent shortly after park police were notified of Mr. Trump’s arrival.

But the author of the report was careful to warn that it should not be taken as a final account of the day, in part because so many law enforcement agencies were involved. Inspector General Mark L. Greenblatt noted that it was not within his purview to investigate what the Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies knew and who may have told them. ordered to use force to clean up the park.

“It was a full review of everything in our jurisdiction,” Mr. Greenblatt said in an interview. “What is unfortunate is that it is not all within our purview.”

The long-awaited report was ordered by congressional lawmakers and former Home Secretary David Bernhardt to find out why park police dispersed the protesters and whether he had been ordered to help organize a presidential photo op.

According to the report, park police were planning to clean up the park so that contractors could put up new fences around the area.

But protesters were allowed to gather there all day anyway. Mr Greenblatt said it was because authorities were waiting for the contractors to arrive and enough law enforcement officers showed up to be able to clean up the park. This happened around 5:30 p.m., less than an hour before William P. Barr, the then attorney general, came to inspect the area himself.

Evidence showed that park police were not aware of Mr. Trump’s plan to walk through the park until “mid or late afternoon on June 1 – hours after they began to elaborate. its operational plan and that the fence contractor had arrived in the park, ”the report said.

The park’s police operations chief learned of Mr. Trump’s plan when Mr. Barr came to inspect the area, according to the report.

“Will these people still be there when POTUS [President of the United States] fate? Mr Barr asked, according to the report.

The COO replied to Mr. Barr, “Are you kidding me?” Then lowered his head and walked away, according to the report.

Soon after, the confrontation turned violent.

Other agencies involved that day included the National Guard, Capitol Police, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Mr Greenblatt noted that the Secret Service began their efforts to clean up the park before the park police issued their first dispersal warning. In a footnote, the report called the decision “operationally contrary to the plan.”

Mr. Trump released a statement Wednesday thanking the Inspector General for what he called “completely and totally exonerating me in the Lafayette Park glade!”

In an interview, Mr. Greenblatt said he didn’t appreciate the comment.

“It’s uncomfortable for me,” he said. “We are independent of any political administration. It is not at all a comfortable base for anyone in my community. “

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