WASHINGTON (AP) — An internal government investigation has determined that the decision to forcibly clear racial justice protesters from an area in front of the White House last summer was not influenced by then-President Donald Trump's plan to stage a Bible-toting photo opportunity at that spot.

The report released Wednesday by the Interior Department's inspector general concludes that the protesters were cleared by U.S. Park Police last June 1 so that a contractor could get started installing new fencing.

The demonstrators were protesting the death of George Floyd, who died after a then-Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck and pinned him to the ground for about 9 1/2 minutes. A half-hour after the Washington protesters were forced from the area with pepper pellets and flash-bangs, Trump walked across Lafayette Park amid the lingering scent of pepper spray and delivered a short speech while holding a Bible in front of St. John's Church.

Park Police officials had already planned to clear the area and “had begun implementing the operational plan several hours before they knew of a potential Presidential visit to the park,” Inspector General Mark Lee Greenblatt said in a statement accompanying the report.

The report documents Trump's attorney general, William Barr, encouraging commanders shortly before the push to clear the protesters because of Trump, but being dismissed.

In a remarkable exchange, the report recounts the testimony of an unnamed Park Police operations commander: “The Attorney General asked him, ‘Are these people still going to be here when POTUS (President of the United States) comes out?’ The USPP operations commander told us he had not known until then that the President would be coming out of the White House and into Lafayette Park. He said he replied to the Attorney General, ‘Are you freaking kidding me?’ and then hung his head and walked away. The Attorney General then left Lafayette Park.”

The report determined that the decision to clear the protesters was justified, but that law enforcement agencies on the scene failed to effectively communicate with each other and failed to communicate warnings to the protesters about the impending crackdown. Several different law enforcement agencies moved ahead of schedule and started engaging with protesters before the protesters had been sufficiently warned.

The confrontation and church photo-op capped several days of escalating tension and scattered violence. Nights of protests over Floyd's death had resulted in scattered vandalism through the downtown area. Trump declared that Washington's mayor, Muriel Bowser, was incapable of maintaining the peace and he called in his own security response.

The report details how on June 1, a contingent from the Bureau of Prisons arrived to the scene late, didn't receive a full briefing and used pepper pellets on protesters “contrary to the USPP incident commander’s instructions.”

The conclusions, which deny any political influence on decisions and cite fog-of-war confusion for any missteps, are likely to be dismissed as insufficient by critics of last summer’s crackdown.

Lafayette Park, the Washington nexus of the last summer's national wave of racial justice protests, is under Park Police jurisdiction; that agency falls under the Interior Department.

The new report focuses on the Park Police decision-making and its complicated interactions with various law enforcement entities, including the Secret Service and the Metropolitan Police Department.

It points out that “the USPP and the Secret Service did not use a shared radio channel to communicate” and determines that “weaknesses in communication and coordination may have contributed to confusion during the operation.”

The report tries to explain one of the main points of lingering contention: who used tear gas and when? It concludes that members of the city's police department, who were stationed down the block, used CS gas near the corner of 17th and H Street.

In the aftermath of that day, the Park Police repeatedly insisted that its officers never used tear gas, while the the police insisted that its officers were not involved in clearing protesters away from the church. Just last month, lawyers for the police department stated in federal court that its officers had used CS gas and other chemical irritants, claiming protesters had become violent and that one officer had his arm burned by a firework.

Much of the criticism of the clearing, and the accusations of political influence, stem from the decision to move in before the 7 p.m. curfew that Bowser had set. The push surprised protesters and was criticized as unnecessarily confrontational after two nights of clashes and property damage.

The report concludes that Park Police commanders viewed the curfew as irrelevant. It cites an incident commander as saying, “We were not enforcing the Mayor’s curfew. We’re a Federal entity. We don’t work directly for the Mayor.”

It continues that commanders on the scene ”did not believe protesters would comply with the Mayor’s June 1 curfew order or that waiting would necessarily reduce unrest.”

(15) comments

threecents

So it may be there were only 999 reasons to impeach Trump, rather than 1000.

gjthuro

George Floyd ,lifetime criminal

threecents

Gjthuro ,lifetime disappointment

Greg F

I call BS on the whole report.

C.D.Reid

Thay "failed to communicate warnings to the protesters about the impending crackdown?" "Started engaging with protesters before the protesters had been sufficiently warned?" Why the hell should those anarchists have been given any warning at all? They wanted a war so fine, let them suffer the consequences. But the line that gets me the most is the "The push surprised protesters and was criticized as unnecessarily confrontational after two nights of clashes and property damage." So, it was "unnecessarily confrontational" to try to stop all the burning, looting, rioting and property damage going on? Just the kind of twisted, warped train of thought one would expect from supporters of blm and antifa,

olefool

Do you feel the same way about the treasonous insurrection at the capitol? Were the Trumpists "unnecessarily confrontational" their were they just well-bent on overthrowing the US government?

C.D.Reid

Comparing one incident on one day in D.C. with over a year of rioting by left wing radicals, blm, and antifa, particularly in the major, Dimocrat led cities, is nothing short of ludicrous, and to be expected of you, fool. Or, to simplify it for you, you're comparing apples with oranges.

olefool

So, here comes twinkle toes trump parading through Lafayette Square amid a crowd of peaceful demonstrators surrounded by secret service and the US Army throwing flash bombs at the people and towing his boot lickers behind him to get to a historic church to hold an upside down Bible and declare himself God or whatever. . What a response;

"ludicrous" you say.... This comment of yours is the most ludicrous piece of gaslighting and deflecting we've ever heard from you, CD, and that's a lot. You just can't gather us a wisp of humility to accept the fact that you and your heroes are stone cold losers, can you? By the way CD/piddle/bosco... your debate style went out with high button shoes, try to get a grip on reality.

pdl603

There are thousands of hours of video tape out there that have not been released to the public. Likely it will tell a different story that the one being told now. Release the video footage.

phydeaux994

How do you know that piddle? If there was, we would have seen it.

pdl603

Yeah, the democrats and corporate media cabal, but I repeat. myself, got it wrong again. When will they be held accountable for their incompetence?

Greg F

When will the t-man be held accountable for his misinformation campaign and sloth-like progress on COVID and his lies that resulted in hundreds of thousands of needless deaths? Once again...piddle has a love affair with all things orange.

pdl603

For what? Everything and I mean everything has been a lie concocted by your handlers and those that supply you with your daily hate filled news. You and your kind are being exposed for slime you are.

phydeaux994

Tell me piddle, who is running this Conspiracy you keep talking about? Our handlers?Where in the World do you get these crazy ideas? And “we’re” slime? Why do you write these ridiculous things. Did you learn all this garbage as part of your public education? And you’re worried about Critical Race Theory??😅😂🤣

threecents

Pdl, There are two words for people like you: paranoid schizophrenia.

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