Trump claims exoneration in Lafayette Square clearing out

U.S. President Trump walks out of the White House to visit St John's Church in Washington

The commander reportedly responded, "Are you freaking kidding me?"

The Park Police operations commander said that when he told former Attorney General William Barr that the authorities were getting ready to move the crowd, Barr asked him, "Are these people still going to be here when POTUS [President of the United States] comes out?"

Monahan said Park Police leaders had been informed earlier in the day that the president planned to visit the park to inspect damage created by the protesters, but they did not know when that would take place.

He was referring to the left-wing, anti-fascist and anti-racist political movement, and the Black Lives Matter social movement. The church's bishop denounced what she described as a stunt with symbolism "antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our churches stand for".

Inspector General Mark Lee Greenblatt's report explains that on June 1, 2020, the Secret Service and United States Park Police made a decision to clear protesters from Lafayette Park in order to allow a contractor to install antiscale fencing the Secret Service obtained that morning.

As the Interior Department inspector general would have it, the church's bishop-along much of the nation-wrongly attributed a link between the clearing of the square and the photo shoot, which transpired in rapid succession through a comedy of errors.

A woman holds onto a fence surrounding Lafayette Park as part of the expanded protective perimeter around the White House on January 17, 2021 in Washington, DC.

"As such, we determined that the evidence did not support a finding that the USPP cleared the park on June 1, 2020, so that then President Trump could enter the park", Interior Department Inspector General Mark Greenblatt said in an accompanying statement.

"Our fine Park Police made the decision to clear the park to allow a contractor to safely install anti-scale fencing to protect from Antifa rioters, radical BLM protesters and other violent demonstrators who are causing chaos and death to our cities", he added.

"We did not clear the park for the photo op", acting Chief Gregory Monahan told the House Committee on Natural Resources in a hearing created to examine the violent and subsequently contentious events in Lafayette Square two months ago. "USPP and open-source video evidence we reviewed showed at least one [Bureau of Prisons] officer shooting pepper balls toward H Street from inside Lafayette Park but did not show protesters breaching the bike-rack fence line".

"We also found that although the USPP used a soundamplifying long-range acoustic device to issue three dispersal warnings to the crowd on June 1, not everyone could hear the warnings".

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