Gregory Monahan, acting chief of the U.S. Park Police, told a House committee he was informed on June 1 that President Donald Trump would be visiting Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square that day, but that the decision to clear protesters forcefully from the park at 6:30 p.m. was unrelated to Trump’s visit, reports the Washington Post. He said the two events occurring within a half-hour was a coincidence. The timing of the police push, using smoke, projectiles and chemical irritants against the large group of protesters, followed almost immediately by Trump’s appearance on the same spot, caused the House Natural Resources Committee to investigate. Democrats argued that the police were used by Trump for political purposes, to clear the way for a photo opportunity at St. John’s Church.
Monahan said, “There is 100 percent zero correlation between our operation and the president’s visit to the church.” Monahan said protesters had been violent for three days before June 1, and that his officers were under assault from projectiles again that day. That claim was contested by an Army National Guard major who testified later. Monahan said the Park Police have not been able to record radio transmissions during special events for nearly two years, leaving no audio record. He said a new digital radio system installed in September 2018 was wrongly configured to record only one dispatch channel. A settlement with the Park Police over previous demonstrations requires them to make three audible announcements before taking physical action against protesters. Adam DeMarco, the Army National Guard major who testified Tuesday, said the warnings were made by a handheld megaphone and couldn’t be heard by protesters. Monahan was also asked about body cameras. Monahan said his force supports cameras but is “not in a position to successfully implement, manage, and sustain a body-worn camera program.”