Barr personally gave order to clear area near White House of protesters: Report
Attorney General William Barr reportedly made the call to clear protesters near the White House before President Trump spoke Monday. The Washington Post reported that Barr gave the direct order for law enforcement to push protesters away from the streets around Lafayette Square before Trump addressed the demonstrations from the Rose Garden. Smoke canisters exploded and rubber bullets were fired during the dispersion, during which Barr was spotted on camera overseeing the law enforcement operation from behind security near the White House. After the crowds were cleared, the Secret Service maintained a clear path so that Trump could walk from the White House to the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church, where he was photographed holding up a Bible, a move that was criticized by the bishop and by some lawmakers.
According to two law enforcement officials, a decision to extend the perimeter around Lafayette Square by one block was made late Sunday evening or early on Monday with the goal of enforcing it Monday afternoon. When Barr saw that the protest-free area had not been extended, he then demanded it. “He conferred with them to check on the status and basically said: ‘This needs to be done. Get it done,’” a Justice Department official described. The order resulted in police moving to disperse the crowd. Initial reports of the dispersal indicated that a mixed assortment of law enforcement used tear gas to move the crowd, although Park Police acting Chief Gregory Monahan said in a Tuesday afternoon statement that the noxious substance was not deployed to clear the area. “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,” he said.
Following Tuesday’s report that Barr gave the direct order to clear the area, some political figures condemned the attorney general. Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts tweeted out the Washington Post story, adding, “Barr should be impeached and removed immediately—this recklessness is going to get more people killed.” Shouting from the protesters erupted during Trump’s Monday evening address, where he announced that he would deploy active-duty troops into major cities if state and local officials fail to maintain order. “Today, I have strongly recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets,” Trump said. “Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled. If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.” The protests and unrest began across the country last week when video emerged, showing a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, pinning down an unarmed and handcuffed black man, George Floyd. Floyd could be heard pleading for air before falling unconscious and later dying. Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. The protests have spread to other cities as demonstrators call attention to racial injustice and police brutality in the U.S. The Washington Examiner reached out to the Justice Department about this story.