The acting chief of the U.S. Park Police said Tuesday that officers did not use tear gas on protesters amassed in Lafayette Park in front of the White House Monday evening and he defended the actions they took to remove the crowd.
Acting Chief Gregory T. Monahan said officers moved to disperse the crowd after protesters began throwing “projectiles including bricks, frozen water bottles and caustic liquids.”
“To curtail the violence that was underway, the USPP, following established policy, issued three warnings over a loudspeaker to alert demonstrators on H Street to evacuate the area,” he wrote in a statement. “As many of the protesters became more combative, continued to throw projectiles, and attempted to grab officers’ weapons, officers then employed the use of smoke canisters and pepper balls.”
“No tear gas was used by USPP officers or other assisting law enforcement partners to close the area at Lafayette Park. Subsequently, the fence was installed.”
A 7-foot-high fence was erected around the north side of Lafayette Park overnight.
Mr. Monahan said the Park Police has not made any arrests during the demonstrations in Washington.
Demonstrators were removed from the park half an hour before a city-wide curfew and ahead of President Trump’s walk from the White House across Lafayette Park to historic St. John’s Church, which was damaged when rioters started a fire in its basement Sunday night.
News outlets reported that Monday’s gathering was largely peaceful prior to the clash, which they said included tear gas and rubber bullets.
Tim Murtaugh, communications director for Mr. Trump’s reelection campaign, argued that “every news organization which reported the tear gas lie should immediately correct or retract its erroneous reporting.”
The nation’s capital has seen five days of protests after George Floyd, a black man, was killed in Minneapolis after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes on Memorial Day.
Mr. Trump and law enforcement officials have faced strong criticism from local leaders and Democrats for Monday’s incident.
The Arlington County Board moved to withdraw the county’s police force from the city after the clash with protesters.
Senate Democrats moved to formally condemn Mr. Trump for “the use of gas and rubber bullets” in a unanimous consent request Tuesday, but was blocked in the Republican-controlled chamber.
“What the president did was make a mockery of our civil rights,” said New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, one of three black senators. “I’m telling you right now — if Donald Trump wants to gas someone, start right here. If he wants to shoot somebody with our federal officials with rubber bullets, start right here.”
Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson requested a briefing from the Secret Service on how law enforcement responded to the protesters.
“It is shameful that the president used the power of the federal government to attack Americans exercising their constitutional right to protest just so he could stage a photo opportunity,” the Mississippi Democrat wrote to Secret Service Director James Murray.
Mr. Thompson wants to have the briefing by Friday.