DC mayor says tear gas on protests outside White House is ‘shameful’

Trump warns governors he will deploy US military if they don’t control violence

US President Trump holds photo opportunity in front of St John's Church in Washington (photo credit: REUTERS/TOM BRENNER)
US President Trump holds photo opportunity in front of St John's Church in Washington
(photo credit: REUTERS/TOM BRENNER)
WASHINGTON – The mayor of Washington DC  called it “shameful” that police forcefully removed protesters from the White House before the city’s 7 p.m. curfew to apparently clear the way for the president to walk to St. John’s Church on Monday.

Under heavy protection, President Donald Trump and several members of his administration, including Attorney General William Barr, walked across a park to St. John’s Church and posed for photos before returning to the White House.

St. John’s Church was set on fire by protesters Sunday night. Trump held up a Bible in front of the boarded-up church, which is referred to as the “church of presidents.”

Earlier, Trump announced that he is sending additional federal resources to help the nation’s capital city quell violent protests -- and then walked across the street to visit a historic church burned during the unrest.

Declaring himself “the president of law and order,” Trump said during a Rose Garden address that he is dispatching “thousands and thousands” of military personnel and law enforcement personnel to Washington, D.C., to stop rioting, looting, vandalism and destruction of property.

Trump also urged governors to use as many National Guard troops as possible to control violence and warned if they didn’t, he would deploy the U.S. military “and quickly solve the problem for them.”

“These are not acts of peaceful protest,” Trump said of the unrest. “These are acts of domestic terror.”

Immediately after his remarks, Trump walked across nearby Lafayette Park and visited St. John’s Church, which was set on fire by protesters Sunday night. Trump held up a Bible in front of the boarded-up church, which is referred to as the “church of presidents.” St. John’s was built in 1815 and has been attended at least once by every president since James Madison.

The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington condemned Trump on Monday for his visit to the church. “Let me be clear: The president just used a Bible, the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and one of the churches of my diocese without permission as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our churches stand for,” Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde told CNN.

“And to do so... he sanctioned the use of tear gas by police officers in riot gear to clear the church yard. I am outraged,” Budde said.
Trump’s actions come after six days of protests and riots in cities across the country following the death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis who died last week while in police custody. Police officer Derrick Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death.

Just minutes before Trump spoke in the Rose Garden and headed to St. John’s, law enforcement officers cleared Lafayette Park with tear gas, rubber bullets, shields and horses. Though the Rose Garden was not within view of the protesters, reporters awaiting Trump’s speech reported hearing a series of loud booms.

Critics suggested the decision to clear the park was linked to Trump’s visit to the church.

At about 6:30 p.m. law enforcement officers cleared Lafayette Park with tear gas, rubber bullets, shields and horses. Trump had yet to appear for his comments in the Rose Garden as the protesters, who at the time were peaceful, were being pushed back.

At 6:44 p.m., Trump began his comments by pledging to be a “law and order” president as officers continued to push protesters blocks away from where he was standing, using some form of projectile.
 
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser wrote in a tweet that “A full 25 minutes before the curfew & w/o provocation, federal police used munitions on peaceful protesters in front of the White House, an act that will make the job of @DCPoliceDept officers more difficult.”
“Shameful!” she continued, and concluded by urging residents to go home and be safe.