- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 28, 2020

A major with the District of Columbia National Guard testified before a House panel Tuesday that excessive force was used on protesters during a clearing operation led by the Park Police outside of the White House on June 1.

That evening, amid anti-racism protests in Washington, D.C., and across the country sparked by the death of George Floyd, National Guard troops were moved onto the White House grounds, where they took up positions to serve as support units for Park Police.

White House and administration officials have maintained that the use of force by the Park Police was necessary to pave the way for the president to make an appearance in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Lafayette Square. Officials have rejected reports that tear gas and rubber bullets were used in the clearing operation, but a new account from the senior D.C. guardsman on the scene paints a different picture.

In a written statement released ahead of the House Committee on Natural Resources hearing on “Unanswered Questions About the U.S. Park Police’s June 1 Attack on Peaceful Protestors at Lafayette Square,” Maj. Adam DeMarco says the use of force involving tear gas and rubber bullets was “an unprovoked escalation and excessive use of force.”

“From my observation, those demonstrators — our fellow American citizens — were engaged in the peaceful expression of their First Amendment rights,” Maj. DeMarco said in his written statement.

“Yet they were subjected to an unprovoked escalation and excessive use of force.”

He explained that when he arrived at the scene around 6 p.m. the evening of the protests, he was told that National Guard troops would serve as support units to Park Police who were installing a larger security barricade on H Street along the northern edge of Lafayette Square.

“I asked my Park Police liaison if tear gas would be used because I had observed tear gas canisters affixed to Park Police officers’ vests, and I knew that tear gas had been used against demonstrators the previous evening,” Maj. DeMarco said, adding that he was the most senior guardsman on scene at the time.

“The Park Police liaison told me that tear gas would not be employed.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser had implemented a 7 p.m. curfew the evening of the protests following a string of violence in the days prior. Maj. DeMarco said that officers had begun making announcements around 6:20 p.m., warning demonstrators to disperse.

“I did not expect the announcements so early, as the curfew was not due to go into effect until 7:00 p.m, 40 minutes later,” he explained.

Maj. DeMarco said that within 10 minutes, “I heard explosions and saw smoke being used to disperse the protesters,” which he was told by a Park Police liaison officer was “stage smoke.” “But I could feel irritation in my eyes and nose and, based on my previous exposure to tear gas in my training at West Point and later in my Army training, I recognized that irritation as effects consistent with CS or ‘tear gas.’ “

He said that later the same evening, he found canisters of tear gas lying in the streets where they were deployed.

“It is the foundation of the trust safely placed in the Armed Forces by the American people,” Maj. DeMarco said, adding that he is testifying before the House panel Tuesday because he “swore as a military officer to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

“And it compels me to say something — and do something — about what I witnessed on June 1 at Lafayette Square.”

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