Park Police Planned to Clear Lafayette Square Before Trump’s Walk to Church

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A recent report by the Interior Department’s inspector general concluded that the United States Park Police had been planning to clear protesters from a park near the White House well before they learned that President Donald J. Trump was going to walk through the area last year, reports the New York Times. The burst of violence in Lafayette Square, which came at the height of the racial justice protests last summer, ensued when protestors were pushed back with smoke, flash grenades and chemical spray deployed by shield-bearing riot officers and mounted police. The sequence of events described in the report suggests that the operation to clear the area turned violent soon after the Park Police were informed of Trump’s arrival.

The inspector general, Mark L. Greenblatt, warned the report was not to be seen as a definitive account of the day, in part because so many other law enforcement agencies, such as the Secret Service, were involved and it was outside his jurisdiction to determine what they knew and who might have ordered them to use force to clear the park. According to the report, the Park Police were planning to clear the area so contractors could install new fencing and evidence showed that they did not know about Trump’s plan to walk across the square until “mid- to late afternoon on June 1 — hours after it had begun developing its operational plan and the fencing contractor had arrived in the park.” Greenblatt noted that the Secret Service started its efforts to clear the park before the Park Police had issued their first dispersal warning. In a footnote, the report called that decision one that was “contrary to the operational plan.” When Trump thanked Greenblatt in a statement for “completely and totally exonerating me in the clearing of Lafayette Park!” the inspector general said he did not appreciate the comment.

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